Old Man Winter Got You Down?

Old Man Winter Got You Down?

How to stave off the Toronto winter blues


Photo: Hannah Jor.


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a specific type of depression we are constantly learning about as more people struggle with the Canadian winter months, and not to mention Toronto’s seemingly endless construction. A friend of mine from a tropical country has experienced low spirits throughout the season since she came to Toronto, but you would think she were a true northerner by the way she braves and embraces the cold! Maybe you were born here, but winter still gets you down? How can we enjoy the Canadian winter when it dominates half of the year? There are many ways, my friend.

A wonderful place to start, especially if your birthday is in the winter months, is at Starbucks. This is because they give you a complimentary birthday drink with whipped cream. So if you choose a delicious drink then you have the warmth, whipped cream, and all the potential a birthday can bring ahead of you. 

For those whose birthday does not fall during the winter months, there are still many ways to enjoy a cold day in the city: simply make hot chocolate at home! Use your favourite mug, and when the instructions indicate two spoonfuls of chocolate powder, go one step further toward happiness and make them heaping spoonfuls of chocolate! It is truly good for the soul.

Bring your thermos and dress appropriately to go meet up with some friends at Nathan Phillips Square for free skating on an outdoor rink right downtown. It’s very accessible for Ryerson, University of Toronto (U of T), and George Brown students. You might even possibly mistake yourself for skating in Central Park, New York, when you’re in the midst of the urban grandeur and excitement of la grande ville. When you skate with friends, you don’t even feel the cold! The cold is no match for the warmth and quality time shared between friends. I have also found that skating alone, at your own pace, zig-zagging between all the other skaters can help you concentrate on your thoughts. It’s a conductive, tranquil activity to stimulate your deep-thinking and decision-making processes.

My favourite indoor winter activity is to do my normal routine, but the only difference is standing in front of a fireplace! Interesting how “heart” is only one letter away from “hearth.” Doing readings and writing papers are still a necessity, but they are more enjoyable while working in front of a fireplace. Anyone who wants a laid-back hairstyle the next day can also take a relaxing, hot shower and resume your position in front of the fireplace afterward. The heat provides the same effects as a blow dryer but you will not have to lift your arms to dry your hair. Your hair will be clean, warm, and as dry as you wish for tomorrow’s winter day. 

Hot chocolate, warmth, and showers are pleasant things accessible to most of us for our enjoyment, but we must be aware that there are always those less fortunate than us. Especially in the winter months, our hearts sympathize with those who endure hunger, thirst, addiction, health problems, loneliness, and much more while trying to fight the biting cold. That is why a wonderful winter activity is to give some of your time to one of many humanitarian initiatives in the city, not to mention on campus. Covenant House, Good Shepherd Ministries, Eva’s Initiatives, and many similar organizations provide Torontonians with the opportunity to share the warmth of charity with those suffering various hardships in our city. There is an established program on campus at the Newman Center called “Out of the Cold” to help those who are inconceivably close to home. 

As mentioned, a great winter activity is to give of yourself to structured charities. However, we all have many responsibilities that exhaust our time, energy, and resources. Fortunately, that does not leave us idle in the winter. In fact, we can assume an entire undercover mission that will warm up these cold, grey days. We can always smile at someone. We can always ask a friend how they are. We can always nod to acknowledge the human dignity of anyone we see on the street, whether they are on a subway grille or skipping along holding their mother’s hand. Whether they are anyone because anyone is a someone. These simple gestures are more effective than any single winter activity in our community. These series of actions create an entire serious mission to assume and carry out with a sense of responsibility and with utmost tenderness of the heart. Spending your winter months engaged in this personal or community goal in Toronto will unquestionably brighten and warm your days in November through March.