Snowshoeing Saved My Life

Snowshoeing saved my life this winter. Not literally saved my life, but figuratively. I don’t know how I would have survived the cold, dark, snowy winter without this sport. Here is my story.

Take care of your body, and take care of your mind. It seems like a pretty simple concept, right? Studies have shown an overwhelming link between positive mental health and a healthy fitness regime (even in winter).

In looking at my own fitness, I think it’s pretty good. I eat well and remain active by snowshoeing in the winter and swimming and biking in the summer. Although I may not be able to enter any fitness competitions soon, I feel as I am in good shape.

I also have a pretty good life, with a great family, two wonderful kids, a great job, and a great home. Generally, things are going right.

So why was it that I was crying in my shower every day? Why was I feeling immense frustration when my children simply spilled a glass of water on the floor?

It turns out depression can hit you out of nowhere. And boy, did it come at me hard. I was shocked and somewhat relieved to be diagnosed with depression at the start of the snowshoe season.

Depression’s Effect

My first thoughts were, “I am that statistic.” The statistic that 1 in 5 Canadians will develop a mental illness in their lives.

Mental illness is no stranger in my life, though. My brother and sister have both been diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder. My brother has gone one step further and created a clothing line to encourage people to speak about mental illness.

Depression can look different to everyone. For me, it was the struggle to pull myself out of bed and get my kids off to school. It was at that time when I wanted to sink back into bed and sleep the day away. Depression for me was wanting to hide inside whenever it got cold out. It was me not wanting to snowshoe or ski or do anything physical. Depression made me sad and unmotivated.

Part of my job is to snowshoe, explore new places, try out new snowshoes, and write about it. I was forced to strap those snowshoes on for the good of everyone who might read something I wrote about.

Thus, I couldn’t sit trapped indoors writing about a sport that I wasn’t even participating in. I couldn’t ‘fake’ it even though I wanted to. Even though I wanted to hole up in my bed and invent a world in which I was motivated to get out there.

Read More: Is Snowshoeing A Panacea For Anxiety and Depression?

woman holding hands up while snowshoeing

Snowshoeing made such a big difference in my mental health this winter. Photo: Lindsay MacNevin

Getting Out There

One day, I had this pivotal moment in which I didn’t know what I would choose. I was lying in bed, no longer able to sleep, with it still dark outside. I needed to find a way to get out of the house.

So I dragged myself to the door and layered on my winter clothing, grumbling to myself about how cold it was outside. I started to go outside to try and get some clarity on things. Then, I noticed my snowshoes leaning on the door, and as there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground, I decided to stick them on.

It was the best decision of my life. As I trekked along my silent street in freshly fallen snow, streetlights still on, I began to feel better. I breathed in the fresh air and looked back to see my sole tracks behind me. I watched the sun begin to rise across the horizon.

As I walked for an hour along the back city streets, I watched the world wake up. I saw people get up and brush off their cars. I saw delivery trucks, and I saw people taking on the world one step at a time. Then, I returned home with a new sense of purpose and a spring in my step that I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Help Your Mental Health This Winter

I won’t sit here and tell you that I got better immediately. I will say that every time I felt a remote bit of sadness or lack of motivation, I put my snowshoes on and went out into the world.

Before I knew it, I got lost exploring the trails of my city that I never bothered to explore before. I met up with friends and introduced them to a sport that meant so much to me. I conquered mountains and hills and treks I didn’t think I could do.

Snowshoeing pushed me to be better in life. I absolutely feel that if I hadn’t gotten on my snowshoes this year, my world would be a lot different right now, with a lot more darkness. But, it opened something up inside me, and I didn’t feel alone anymore.

Also, an online community of snowshoers (like this one) provided support, and a team of friends and family surrounded me. You, the readers: you made me go out there and do it.

Mental Illness is a very real and scary thing, and as more people speak out about it, the more people will feel comfortable talking about it.

For more information on mental illness and how you can make a difference in someone’s life, please go to the Canadian Mental Health Association or National Alliance on Mental Illness.

What about you? How have snowshoeing and other winter sports helped with your mental health during the cold, dark winter season? We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

This article was orginially published on Apr 20, 2015, and updated to include new information on December 8, 2020.

Read Next:
Snowshoeing: The Ultimate Female Bonding Experience
Take Your Friends Snowshoeing (Really, They’ll Love It)
Adapting To Challenges: Reducing Pain, Time To Train
Snowshoeing For Beginners: The First-Timer’s Guide

About the author

Lindsay MacNevin

First a mom… then a writer… then an avid traveler… then an outdoor enthusiast. Graduating from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, Lindsay’s love for writing, travel and the outdoors sparked a full-time career as a freelancer. In addition to writing for Snowshoe Magazine and its sister publication, River Sports Magazine, Lindsay is also a correspondent for Concourse Media’s EscapeHere.com. Beyond freelancing, Lindsay partnered with her sister, Jenny, to create 2HipMoms.com—a blog that combines their love for travel, adventure and motherhood.

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4 Comments

  • I’m in a serious funk right now. The crying doesn’t seem to stop. And, it’s funny, I always assume it doesn’t happen to happy family people with kids and such. I guess I find a bit of hope in your article. I did, however, only go out snowshoeing once, because the cold was so bitter when we had the snow.

    • It happens to everyone trust me. I never thought I would be one to get depressed but it hit me hard. If you can find an activity that gets you outside I find that helps a lot. It was bitterly cold for us too this winter but now spring has sprung and I have found taking bike rides and hikes alone has given me some peace. Keep your chin up and know that you are not alone!

  • I can relate so much to this article. I, too, suffer from Depression and it was my therapist that suggested I take up snowshoeing. I loved it. It saved me too.

    • That is amazing! What do you do in the summer that keeps you going? So far I am hiking and biking but thinking I need something else.