“There’s no such thing as bad weather. Some might say it’s a lovely day; you’re just wearing the wrong clothes”—this was the somewhat unexpected response I received from my Dad back in Britain, when we chatted on Facetime the other day about my apprehension towards the changing season and inconsistent Canadian climate.
My surprise stemmed from the fact that I thought we had a mutual agreement that bad weather definitely exists. Sunny weather in Britain is likely fictional. The weather, around 60% of the time, is what I like to call Monday morning weather, which doesn’t just occur on Monday mornings. It covers everything, from mildly ominous clouds that look like they will ruin your day to arty grey drizzle to sheer downpour. It’s the anti-climax after the weekend in weather form.
Remember the freezing winter of 2014/15 when it reached -41 degrees Celsius with wind chill? Well, that day was my very first in the country. I battled my way to FreshCo to get milk and eggs, and wondered where on Earth I was. Turned out it was Peterborough, a snowy ghost town. I wouldn’t call it bad weather, more terrifying. A few months later, when the snow turned to slush, my Dad arrived to visit with hiking boots, woollen socks galore and fresh eyes for the fresh Ontario spring. It was still chilly, but he had his thermals on.
Autumn can be a struggle of what jacket to wear, whether to put a scarf on, whether to wear a t-shirt, long sleeves, or a fleece. It’s the climax of the seasons; the leaves crisp into a riot of colours, then finally fall waiting for their rebirth in spring. It’s a farewell to summer, reminding us of the certainty of change and the ephemerality of life forms.
New seasons can present us with new ways of viewing the world, and the truth for many is that as the nights get darker and shorter, things around may seem a little darker too.
It may start with feeling unmotivated, tired, or irritable. Not wanting to socialise. Being more sensitive to rejection. Feeling frustrated putting layers and layers of clothing on, and then flustered entering indoors from the cold, just to hurriedly peel them all off again. Oversleeping, which leads to further fatigue. Portions of rice and pasta getting bigger. Biscuits, chocolate, and hot tea are much more appealing when the weathers chilly. But then feeling bad, sad, or mad about it.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, a.k.a. seasonal depression or winter depression) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It suggests a link between reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days and mood. It’s common in countries where there are large changes in the weather and daylight hours in the different seasons. It explains frostiness, fragile temperament, and low energy levels. A lot of people experience “winter blues,” where they feel a bit more down or sad in the winter. But with “winter depression,” the symptoms can get in the way of life.
Light therapy lamps are one often-suggested solution, but they’re not accessible for everyone. A UBC study found that an hour’s walk in natural winter light was as effective as two and a half hours under bright, artificial light. Getting outside during the daylight hours is a good step towards a better mindset. A mindful walk is better than a forced, hurried one, so if time allows, try to notice each leaf you pass, whether it’s a burnt orange, soft magenta, or a buttery yellow.
Nature has a wonderful way of soothing and revitalizing, of de-cluttering our minds and allowing us to foster appreciation and gratitude, even in the darkest of times.
The outdoors are not meant to be observed from a window pane. Yet we often forget that we, as humans, are also a part of nature, and find ourselves stuck behind a desk or phone screen. Urban living can take its toll on us, mentally and physically, and paired with the colder months, weariness and lack of drive may seem inevitable.
Natural depression treatments, such as changing physical activity, behaviour, lifestyle, and way of thinking can help. Though changing way of thinking isn’t easy. Depression can strip away the structure from life, making one day melt into the next. Setting a gentle routine can help, as well as eating properly. Colourful fruits and vegetables are often nature’s super-foods; packed with different health benefits that not only help your body, but your mind. Simply choosing colours to pair together on a plate is a method of de-stressing; bringing satisfaction and serving as a foundation for expressing creativity. Simple tasks such as doing the dishes or sorting a load of laundry are goals to accomplish, and encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways.
Setting out all the things that make me fret about the upcoming season, and finding a solution or something to combat it also helps.
For example, the nights are darker earlier, but at Jackson Park the colours of the leaves in the day will look spectacular. Paddling in the Otonabee river is no longer an option, but admiring it, and later skating on it, is.
The coming cold makes me nervous, but I keep telling myself everything will be alright, so long as I’m wearing the right clothes.