January is a tough month. It’s cold and the days are short. If you were celebrating at the end of December, you have to get back into regular life and your wallet is likely leaner than it once was. You may have started the month with all kinds of optimistic goals for the year and are already struggling with some of them. And now you’re staring down several more months of winter before the next statutory holiday.

Whether you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, notice that your mental illness symptoms worsen when you’re cooped up and isolated, or feel like the only things to look forward to are months away, it’s not uncommon to have a hard time in the winter months. The good news is, there are things you can do to make this time of year better.

Plan more small activities

You don’t have to break the bank or leave the country to have something to look forward to. Keep it simple and small. Do things you like to do with people you like to spend time with.

You can do movie nights, board game nights, tarot card reading days, a Super Smash Bros tournament, or whatever you and your friends like doing. It can be something you tend to do on your own, like binging The Office for the tenth time on Netflix, but this time you invite a friend or two over to cringe at the Scott’s Tots episode with you.

The idea of organizing these kinds of social events may feel overwhelming, but just like with any task that at first seems daunting - such as starting an essay or diving into a complicated work project - starting is often the hardest part. So just take that first step and the rest will follow. Whether that means creating a group chat or researching a new trivia night bar, sitting down and actually starting to make plans will be the toughest part, but it'll be completely worth it.

Bundle up and go out

I know it’s cold and windy and slippery, but try to get outside. It’s normal to want to seal the door as soon as you get inside to keep the cold at bay, but fresh air and a little vitamin D can have an awesome impact on your mood. Even a 10-minute walk can change your perspective on your day, your city, or maybe even your month.

Everything looks different in the winter. Be open and curious to what new aspects of your city the snow can show you.

If you’re feeling brave, you can try diving headfirst into Canadian winter by going skating, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or playing shinny. If that isn’t your style, you can get off the metro a stop early to add a bit of a walk to your commute. Or you can go for a walk in a park or just down your street.

*Bonus*: if there are any furry friends in your life, I bet they would be delighted to go for a jaunt with you. Their enthusiasm and cuddles will undoubtedly add some joy to your day!

Stay in the present

While there may not be as many fun festivals, barbeques, and vacations to look forward to in the winter, constantly waiting and wishing for future events can actually make today that much more difficult. Instead, learning to appreciate the moment that you’re in and all the potential it offers can help you feel content, regardless of the weather or your social calendar.

You’ve probably heard of mindfulness before, but you may not know exactly what it is. Essentially, being mindful is being purposefully aware of the present moment, and acknowledging and accepting whatever thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations you’re experiencing without judgment.

Practicing mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve relationships and focus, and boost memory, to name a few. Instead of missing out on some potentially beautiful moments over the next few months because you’re spending the winter constantly thinking about the spring and summer, take a stab at mindfully accepting the moment that you’re in.

If you want to give it a try, there are tons of blogs, apps (my favourite is Headspace), YouTube videos, and books that can help you get started.

Leaving the holidays behind and looking out onto a horizon of cold, dark days can be a strain on your emotional health, but there are ways to make the winter months more enjoyable. Do things you enjoy, spend time with people you find comfort in, give your body fresh air and exercise, and help your mind find peace in the present.

If you're feeling isolated this winter, you can always talk to an empathetic listener. 
Book a 
vent session as early as tomorrow.