When I moved to Vancouver at the beginning of 2020, I had no idea of Vancouver winters. Coming from Austria, I expected it to be cold and snowy. Boy, was I wrong. I remember that in February, we had three weeks of rain in a row, without a minute of rain break. I couldn't believe it! Never in my life had I seen that much rain. That's when I found out that Vancouver is also called "Raincouver," which totally makes sense.
While some people don't mind the rain, for others, it can be pretty depressing. Winter blues or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can be consequences of the darker season. If you notice that you feel low on energy lately, it's harder for you to get out of the house or even out of bed, or if you have changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, it could be that you're affected by the rainy season.
Here are some tips on bringing brightness and warmth into your days and getting through the next couple of months.
Bring sunshine into your life
Sunlight is essential for our well-being.
"For some people, reduced exposure to sunlight, which occurs in the winter in the U.S., can lead to the significant mental health challenge of SAD, a form of depression." (What to know about the health benefits of sunlight)
Sun generates the production of vitamin D in our body, which is vital for bone health, prevention of diseases and beneficial for our mental health. Therefore, it's good to eat food high in vitamin D like salmon, mushrooms, or oranges. You could also take vitamin D supplements after consulting with your doctor.
Sunlight lamps are a great alternative to bring sunshine into your life on rainy days. They imitate sunlight and are often used for people affected by the winter blues or SAD to improve their overall mood and sleep quality.
Even in our rainy Vancouver winter, there are some sunny and bright days. Since they can be rare, make conscious use of them. Go for a walk, explore the mountains around Vancouver, go hiking or cycling, or just sit in the sun on your balcony.
Be warm and comfy
Enjoy the warmth and coziness inside while it's cold and raining outside. Fill up a hot-water bottle, wrap yourself in your favourite blanket and enjoy a hot chocolate on the couch. Sip a nice cup of tea in front of your fireplace. Have a warm bubble bath at the end of your workday, and relax with candles, vanilla scent and music.
What about a winter vacation in the warmer south instead of a summer vacation for a change? It would shorten the rainy season a bit and give you fresh energy for the rest of the winter. If this is not in your budget right now, how about an afternoon at a spa or sauna? Hot yoga or other fitness classes in warm temperatures are pretty popular right now (I wonder why, haha). A trip to the Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park is always a good idea to escape the dull and grey weather and go for a walk in a tropical, warm rain-forest.
Have fun indoors
There are endless fun and entertaining possibilities for indoor activities: Museums, Theatre, Pub Quiz, Cinema, Escape games, Laser Tag, Wine tasting, Painting and craft workshops, Indoor Pools, Ice Skating, Libraries, Concerts, Spa, Exhibitions, Vancouver Aquarium, Gym and Sports Classes, Tennis, Climbing and and and…
Start a list of fun indoor activities today and make it your goal to check off all items before winter is over.
Gear up and enjoy
If you live in Vancouver, you need waterproof shoes. And a waterproof jacket. And a good umbrella. Once you have those basics, go outside and enjoy. Have you ever tried a hike in the rain? With the right gear, it can be quite fun, and you still stay dry. Appreciate the lush and green parks in the city and rainforests around Vancouver.
A way to escape the rain is to go up higher where it's not raining but snowing. We are lucky to be living in a city where we have multiple skiing areas, possibilities for cross country skiing, sleigh riding and snowshoeing. So next time you're fed up with the rain, get in your car or hop in the bus and go up on Mount Cypress, Grouse, or Seymour and enjoy a "real" winter day in the snow.
Having connections in life is essential for us as social beings. Friends, a caring partner, or a loving family increase feelings of belonging, acceptance, joy, purpose, self-worth and self-esteem. So make it your habit to meet up with other people at least once a week. Invite friends for board game afternoons, bake or cook together, go for a trivia or karaoke night, meet for a beer in the pub, or even a walk in the rain.
Vancouver has a reputation for not being the easiest place to find friends and meaningful connections. Especially if you're new to the city, finding "your people" can be challenging. If this is what you're struggling with right now, please take a look at my article "New to Vancouver and lonely? 10 steps you need to take right now."
Winter is a time where everything naturally slows down. Even plants and animals take a break and hold on to their resources until spring arrives. We're so used to constantly keep moving at a high pace, always pushing ourselves to achieve more, be better and never standing still. We can learn a lot from nature, and winter is telling us to shift our concentration from the outside world to our inside.
Accept that everything is a bit slower in winter and adapt to the pace. Walk a bit slower, don't rush your morning coffee, take time for whatever needs to be done during the day without hectic and stress. Take extra time for self-care and breaks, like taking a bath, meeting up with friends, or listening to music. Do things that make you feel relaxed and good about yourself. Surround yourself with activities and people that give you good energy, and try to let go of what drains your energy. Use the wintertime to really focus on your mental and physical health and put yourself first without feeling guilty about it.
For some people, the darker months are more challenging than others, and it's okay to get support. Maybe you feel sad and hopeless, lonely, or you're struggling with your self-worth and self-esteem. Perhaps you have sleeping problems, difficulties concentrating, or are just lower on energy in general. Whatever you're struggling with right now, I want you to know that you don't have to deal with it alone. Counselling can be a powerful tool to help you deal with winter blues, SAD or depression symptoms.
As a Registered Social Worker, I support women to find balance in life and the confidence to make the right decisions for themselves. I offer online and in-person sessions, providing a warm and safe space for you to be heard, connect more deeply with yourself and find the tools to feel relaxed, confident and safe to be yourself. Contact me for a free 15-min consultation to find out if I can be helpful for you.
John T. Cacioppo & William Patrick. Loneliness. Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.