Find wellness in togetherness.

With sub-zero temperatures and sunshine proving elusive, many of us experience a worsening of mental health during winter. Studies have shown higher levels of depressive symptoms in winter months among Canadians, particularly in young people with mild depressive symptoms.  In fact, about 15% of Canadians will report at least a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (depression bearing a seasonal pattern) in their lifetime.

Most experts believe the lack of sunlight affects our bodies’ circadian rhythms, making us experience irritability, low energy, feeling tired, heavy, or lethargic and even being more sensitive in our relationships or sleeping too much. Whatever the cause, unfortunately there’s no way to make summer come sooner. However, there’s a lot you can do to improve your mental health while stuck indoors.

If you’re feeling low or bummed out about the cold and lack of sun, stick around – based on expert advice, we discuss five low-cost things students can do within their houses with friends or loved ones that will boost mental health (I promise we won’t tell you to go for walks in freezing temperatures or go on an “affordable” tropical vacation!) There’s an immense body of research proving that bonding with people you love significantly boosts mental health, and there’s a lot you can do once you get together!

Boost your mental health with board game nights

A game of Catan in play.
Photo by Aksel Fristrup on Unsplash

If there’s any activity that’s inexpensive, can be done indoors and brings people together (or conversely sparks wars) it’s board games. For millennia, people have played games to bond, banish boredom and keep their cognitive skills sharp. Research has also shown that board games can improve knowledge, enhance interpersonal interactions among players, and even increase players’ motivation. The best part? You’ll get special time with your friends, family or loved ones without worrying about expenses.

This winter, I bought a well-loved box of Catan and it’s the best thing I’ve done. Every other week, I host board game nights and have friends over. Not only does it pass time in a healthy way that bonds us together, it ensures I’m training those mental muscles each week.

Get creative by hosting sip ‘n paint nights

A painting in yellow and green with nature prints.
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

It doesn’t matter if you’re a good artist or the worst one to ever exist, painting is for everyone! Procuring supplies and friends for a night of hot chocolate and painting is always a great time – not only can you laugh together at mistakes, you have something to remember an evening well spent with the crew.

Painting can make a huge impact on your mental health. Experts found that the use of art therapy improved mental health in patients. Research shows making art can activate reward pathways in the brain, reduce stress, lower anxiety levels and improve mood. And the best part? The positive impact of art on mental health didn’t just hold true for painting but also all other forms of art such as making music, drawing or even singing along together.  So whether its buying a set of paints or buying a karaoke machine, it’s well worth it!

Host a cookoff!

Two people cooking together.
Photo by Jimmy Dean on Unsplash

One of my favourite indoor activities is group cooking. As someone who loves to cook and share my culture, I love introducing my friends to new cuisines or learning theirs, always together. There’s something so therapeutic about listening to music while chopping up ingredients and sharing stories. If you’re competitive and love a good challenge, consider hosting a cookoff! It’s a win-win – you get to showcase your skills but everyone gets to share a warm meal at the end!

The positive effects of cooking in a group have been seen in many studies. For instance, a three-session nutrition education and cooking class intervention for older adults showed improvements in psychological well-being. So, the next time you’re feeling too lethargic to cook or meal prep, text a friend or ask your family if they want to do it together to feel a sense of positivity and togetherness instead.

PowerPoint nights to boost those stage skills

Friends laughing together.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

When I first heard of Presentation Nights on TikTok, I’ll admit, I was skeptical (honestly, anything I hear from TikTok is viewed with extreme suspicion). I mean, picking random topics to present to your friends? Seems awkward and pointless. Once I tried it though, I did a 180! The hilarity that ensured in presenting a random, unheard of thing to your friends and seeing them laugh was priceless. Right from doing draws on topics to creating a hilarious slide deck, each moment was filled with togetherness and joy.

There are many suggested topics, right from presenting your friends’ celebrity lookalikes to guessing which friend would die first in a horror movie. By doing this, not only will you get a serotonin boost from spending time with friends and laughing together, you’ll also end up with some sharp presentation skills!

Group trivia nights will keep you guessing

A sign bearing the phrase "trivia night."
Photo by Sean Benesh on Unsplash

Trivia nights are an amazing way to keep your wits and knowledge sharp while learning new things. As the trivia master, I personally love getting to serve up brain teasers with a side of friendly competition, creating an atmosphere that’s equal parts excitement and camaraderie. From debating obscure facts to celebrating those “aha” moments, every question becomes a chance to showcase our quirky knowledge and discover hidden talents among pals.

Experts say that trivia games are a great way to help keep your mind sharp and alert, ensuring your memory is strong and your brain is challenged. Not only will you benefit from socializing but also from staying mentally sharp and knowledgeable.

Do these sound like fun ideas you’d try? Go for it! Let the joy of bonding fuel your mental health and help you stay upbeat through the winter. If you’re looking for more ways you can boost your mental health and embrace your full potential, be sure to attend IGNITE’s Real Talks with Amelia Dimoldenberg on Feb.15. The comedian and presenter will engage in a heart-to-heart with students about her journey embracing awkwardness and tackling weaknesses to reach her full potential.

See you there!

Feature photo by AllGo – An App For Plus Size People on Unsplash

Are you interested in hosting a paint and sip night? Consider following a Bob Ross tutorial like we did!

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