How getting outside can help with the winter blues

Winter bud (Photo by Amanda Cashin Photography)

Winter bud (Photo by Amanda Cashin Photography)

February 28, 2018 | by Sarah Fader

In 2012, Statistics Canada and the Canadian Community Health Survey on mental health conducted a survey on the Canadian population living with mental illness. The survey showed that 5.4 per cent of Canadians, aged 15 and older, had experienced symptoms of a mood disorder (including depression) in the past 12 months.

Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects many people, in a variety of ways. Depression can be quite serious and, if not treated properly, fatal. That’s why it’s important to look out for the symptoms of depression, including those related to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). About two to three per cent of Canadians will experience SAD at some point in their lifetime and a milder form of SAD, also known as winter blues, can affect up to 20 per cent of North Americans.

Staff hike at Bunchberry Meadows, AB (Photo by NCC)

Staff hike at Bunchberry Meadows, AB (Photo by NCC)

Not wanting to go outside in the cold Canadian winters is understandable. It can seem like the perfect time to hibernate under a blanket and watch movies. But it’s detrimental to your mental health to avoid the outdoors even in the winter. You don’t get the vitamin D that you need and you miss out on the benefits of fresh air, like increased energy, clarity of mind and even feeling happier and healthier.

So get out of your sweatpants, put on some warm gear and go out into nature. Even if you’re outside in the snow, you can experience nature’s beauty. There are so many beautiful things to see in the woods. Trees are covered in layers of snow and the way the winter light shines on them makes the snow sparkle. The winter light is something special ― it feels brighter than the summer sunlight. A walk in the woods, even a brisk one, can boost your mood.

Photographic birds in Red Deer, AB (Photo by

Photographic birds in Red Deer, AB (Photo by

Another wonderful thing you can do when you’re out walking in the woods is to take photographs of what you see. Whether that means taking pictures of animals or finding a beautiful tree that you’re in awe of, use your camera or your smartphone to capture the stunning natural wonders.

Nature is for exploring. If you’re into physical activity, going for a run in the woods can be refreshing in the cold. Just make sure you dress warm enough, and wear layers in case you break a sweat. Getting out and experiencing the endorphins released through physical activity is one of the most beneficial ways that you can combat the winter blues.

It’s easy to give in to the temptation of hiding in your house. But all you have to do is take that first step of putting one foot on the floor, followed by the next foot. Take it one step at a time and before you know it, you’re out the door and ready to embrace the natural world. Don’t forget winter sports like skiing and snowboarding or even sledding with the kids. This way, you get outside, see nature and get exercise.

Combat winter blues by focusing on ways you can get outside. It doesn’t have to be a long journey, as long as you are able to get outdoors and experience the beauty that nature as to offer.

Sarah Fader (Photo courtesy of Sarah Fader)

About the Author

Sarah Fader Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories.

Read more about Sarah Fader.

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