As the winter days get shorter, darker and colder, many of us have less energy and a lower mood. In fact, the third Monday in January, also known as “Blue Monday”, is commonly thought of as the saddest day of the year due to stressors like post-holiday blues, weight gain, chilly and dark days, failure to stick to New Year’s resolutions and the arrival of holiday bills. Although there might not be much science behind Blue Monday, “the winter blues” are all too real for many of us.
There’s a key difference between being in a bit of a funk during the winter (“the winter blues”) and living with a clinical condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD impacts a small percentage of Canada’s population: about 2-3% of people living in Canada may be affected by serious depression symptoms characterized as SAD, showing clinical depression associated with the season. The winter blues, on the other hand, affects more people: about 15% of people living in Canada experience milder symptoms of sadness or unhappiness related to the dark, cold weather.
The pandemic’s mental health impacts
According to research from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and the University of British Columbia, the pandemic has led to significant mental health challenges and stress for people living in Canada, especially for those who may have lost their jobs, individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions, youth, members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and individuals with disabilities. 41% of people living in Canada say their mental health has become worse since the pandemic’s onset.
How physical activity benefits mood & mental health
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to lift your spirits that’s within everyone’s grasp: just get moving! When you exercise, your body releases endorphins and feel-good chemicals that reduce feelings of pain and increase feelings of pleasure, literally boosting your mood.
We get it, going outside for a walk in -20 C might not be the most appealing option in the world. But you don’t need to jog or hike in freezing weather to get all the great benefits of being active! Just 15 minutes of moderate exercise like dancing, yoga, chores around the house or just doing some jumping jacks or pushups can provide a mood-enhancing effect. But if you can, do try to bundle up and get active outdoors. Recent studies show that people report more vitality, enthusiasm and pleasure after having walked outside.
On top of all that, physical activity can help you cope with stress, reduce anxiety and depression, help you think better, increase self-esteem, and can play a role in the prevention of mental health issues. This makes getting active an essential part of our mental health tool kits!
Move for your mood today!
Want to combat the winter blues but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered! We’ve partnered with theYMCA to bring you the perfect videos to get you moving for your mood, no matter where you are in your physical activity journey. Download the free ParticipACTION app to join the team as they lead you through safe, effective and fun low-intensity exercises with variations for all abilities. The app also has a range of other videos, exercise tips and challenges to make getting active as easy and fun as possible!
*Lifestyle changes aren’t always enough to beat the winter blues or SAD, and you can always reach out for supports and services: