Category Archives: happiness

How to Overcome Conflict in Relationships


People are afraid of the dark. It stands for everything that is unknown and frightening. Yet there is something intriguing about it, as people often hesitantly inch into the darkness of the haunted house with a racing pulse and a hint of excitement at the same time.

When it comes to the darkness that is most intimate to ourselves, however, we are more likely to be oblivious. It never leaves our side, it is there whenever light is shed, and there is no getting rid of it—it’s our shadow. The emergence of our shadow is accompanied by various negative emotions, desires, and impulses that usually manifest in horrific dreams, visions, and fantasies. The shadow comprises of everything that we don’t want seen, either by the world or ourselves. In suppressing these emotions into our unconscious, it ends up being expressed through other channels. For example, when interacting with others, a common type of channeling is projecting the shadow onto others. Since the shadow is the part of the personality that we ourselves resent, perceiving these aspects in others with whom we have a relationship will certainly create unpleasant tension.

To use Jung’s wise words, “…It cannot be argued out of existence or rationalized into harmlessness,” which means the shadow is always going to be a part of us, and it is indisputably a reality that the shadow is entirely capable of harm. The result of any kind of willful blindness might just end in yielding control over to the shadow. The notion that repressing the shadow is insidious for our relationships harbors the promise that when it is faced and embraced, the relationships might be better. But it must be done in entirety.

First we need to identify the shadow, and expose it in its holistic form in front of our own eyes. Because of the projection mechanism, one way we can do this is to observe our own negative emotional reactions towards others. Secondly, try to identify the emotions as clearly as possible. By articulating what we are feeling, we are better able to find the root cause, which sometimes has nothing to do with the shadow. Then we need to closely observe ourselves, and ask these questions:

  • Are we exhibiting the traits or behaviours that we “see” and repel in others?
  • What tends to trigger such perceptions of others? What are the precipitants?
  • What kinds of belief might underlie the inexplicable feelings towards such traits?
  • What are the things that can be done to improve the situation? Can this part of the shadow be resolved, or does it have to be dealt with in the company of others?

Lastly, it is always helpful to make this aspect—the rediscovered shadow—of our personality known to those we have a relationship with. It is definitely a scary and by no means easy thing to do, but exposing the shadow, being honest to those we hold close, gives us a chance to be more authentic and will ultimately bring about a sense of relief. It’s an opportunity for open conversation with your partner, which may resolve many of your conflicts. People are more likely to show their vulnerability if we have the courage to show ours first.

To face and to accept the shadow as part of ourselves is a task that makes the fearless crumble. But it is very useful and helpful because when we are challenged with difficult situations we are going to need its strength and the embrace of it promises a better future for us and those closest to us.

By: Ruihong Yuan

Ruihong is a graduate from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currently looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.

How to Acknowledge our Biases


In this modern society, many people are developing a tendency to equate objectivity with better results. Consequently, many people now strive to attain an “objective” mind, utilizing only observable data, driven and guided by logic and reason, free from any personal biases. This goal is definitely one that’s worth attaining since it seems to meet the demands of present and possibly future society. However, what does it mean for a person to be free from personal biases? Is it truly achievable? And how can we do it? Here’s my thought.

There is sometimes the misconception that the way to attain an unbiased mind is to increase knowledge in the area one wants to avoid bias in. It is true that by knowing more about a subject we can be more aware of the biases that exist, but an unbiased or biased mind can only be reflected in our thinking, which in turn is reflected in our behavior and language. In order to do that, increasing self-awareness of our own minds and actions is necessary. It is only when we become aware of what we are thinking and doing, that we being to learn if we are being biased.

However, as we have seen in a multitude of psychology experiments, most people have the tendency of seeing themselves as unbiased. This can lead to a well-known phenomenon called confirmation bias, which is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.

So what should we do? If the increase in knowledge can help, but tends to be trumped by our personal presumptions, then we can start by learning about ourselves from our friends, acquaintances, family, etc. This is not to implicate the role of our predisposition, but to identify a pattern in behavior and thought process. Getting past this step can help us acknowledge any propensities we possess towards certain kinds of biases. The next step is to learn to be more mindful of our behavior and thoughts as we go about our daily interactions and professional endeavours. Without striving to do better in this area, all other efforts would be in vain.

To answer the questions from the beginning: no, we will always have our biases – note that this is why we set the goal to become UNBIASED in the first place; to reduce personal biases, we must know what we tend to biased against (or for), acknowledge that we are under its influence, and then increase self-awareness of our actions and thoughts. To be free, or more appropriately, to loosen the grip of personal biases on ourselves, is to always know that we ARE biased, and always will be.

By: Ruihong Yuan

Ruihong is a graduate from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currently looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.

 

Overcoming Depression


Are you struggling with depression? If you answered yes, then you’re likely feeling low energy and struggling to get motivated. This lack of energy and motivation makes it difficult for you to engage in your typical routine and engage in productive roles; making you feel like you “can’t” do anything until your depression subsides. However, waiting for motivation to come before taking action is impossible because action comes before motivation. Taking even the smallest step, like getting out of bed, will build momentum to taking another small step. It will feel impossible, but you CAN do it and you will feel better afterwards.

Below are a few further tips to fighting depression:

Therapy Goals: Talking to a professional or someone you feel close to is big part of recovery. However, a lot of people go to therapy, while taking medications, and don’t actively participate in the session or complete any of the assigned therapy homework. It’s important to evaluate what you want from therapy and recognize that therapy won’t work if you’re not 100% invested and willing to put in the work. Before every therapy session, write down exactly what you want from the session, the timeline to achieve it, and how you will achieve it. Fighting depression requires constant active participation.

Engage in Pleasurable Activities: With a lack of motivation being a common symptom of depression, it can be hard to start your day. You may be overwhelmed with the number of tasks you’ve been putting off and this just makes it harder to pick a place to start. However, in knowing that action comes before motivation, it may feel less daunting to start by doing something that’s enjoyable in order to build the momentum for the other less desirable tasks.

Physical Exercise: Exercise has been found to improve mood and sleep and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. This is because exercise releases a chemical in your brain called endorphins, which is known to reduce your perception of pain. People usually don’t exercise because they aim too high with their expectations of what exercise should look like and how many times a day they should be doing it; making exercise feel like a big task that’s unachievable. However, the key to getting into exercise is to start small. You can start by taking a 10-minute walk around the block and retuning home. Remember that any small amount of exercise is better than none at all!

Eliminate the word “Can’t”: Fighting depression is mentally and physically exhausting and it seems easier to quit than to move forward. We often use the word “can’t” to describe why we’re not engaging in certain tasks. However, the medical definition of “can’t,” means physically being unable to participate in something. For example, being unable to walk because you’re paralyzed and in a wheelchair. So I challenge you to replace the term “can’t” with “I don’t want to” because it’s not that you are physically incapable of for example getting out of bed, but rather you don’t want to get out of bed because it is hard. This is not meant to diminish the difficulty of engaging in a task when you have depression, but rather shed light to the fact that you always have a choice, even if the choice feels impossible.

In summary, the key to fighting depression is to maximize all 4 areas of treatment: 1. Medication, 2. Psychotherapy, 3. Exercise, and 4. Social Engagement. If you only address one area, for example taking medications, and ignore the other 3 interventions, than you’re likely not going to succeed because you’re only receiving ¼ of your treatment. So make sure to take a small step in each of the areas and eliminate your negative self-talk because depression is hard! Be kind to yourself because depression is a disease. It does NOT define who you are as a person.

By: Maleeha Khan

Maleeha is currently doing a double major in Human Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on the sex differences in factors predicting conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. She is interested in pursuing MD after her undergraduate degree and helping third world countries dealing with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Is your Lifestyle too Stressful?

In the society and world that we live in today, it is easy (and almost involuntary) to fall into a pattern of life that can be labeled as stressful. Since many of us nowadays are in full time studies or have a full time job and family duties, we tend to experience high levels of stress.

In some situations, stress seems inevitable, and it often is. However, constant and relentless stress can be mentally exhausting and disadvantageous for us in the short-term and the long-term. Work-life balance is what many of us aim for; however, when we fail to maintain this balance and end up working late evenings and weekends, we are putting ourselves at risk for burnout. There are going to be certain periods of our lives (e.g., during final exam periods or a critical period on the job), where it’s necessary to sacrifice our “rest” time in order to meet our education and work goals. However, if this is constantly happening then that might mean that we are taking away a considerable amount of our “rest” time. I am not saying that working hard and sacrificing some of your free time to meet your goals is a bad thing, but I am pointing to the importance of trying to maintain the work-life balance in order to avoid burnout. By nature, our bodies and minds need adequate rest in order to function at their best and help us achieve what we have always dreamt of achieving. Therefore, the work-life balance benefits us by re-fueling our body and mind with the ability to face all sorts of challenges and meet our goals.

One important thing to keep in mind is that it is a good idea to make time for you, which is what I like to call “me time”. This could be a break from a stressful task, which does not necessarily have to be a long break, but rather a break that we genuinely enjoy which helps us get our minds off the task for a while. This simple and enjoyable break will help you regain your focus and return to your task with a fresh mind.

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

Happiness as a long-term Goal


What helps us stay motivated?
Most people in today’s society have an engrained reward valuation system that either encourages or prevents them from undertaking an activity. Often, a few of the questions that we sift through before undertaking an activity include: will this make me feel good; how difficult is it to attain the reward; what could I be doing in the meantime if I wasn’t engaged in this activity?

To put this in perspective on a small scale, think about the questions that cross your mind when you decide if you should go get a cup of Starbucks coffee:

  1. What effect will this cup of coffee have on my mood and productivity?
  2. How far is the nearest Starbucks and how much time will it take me to get there?
  3. Should I get a cup of coffee from the downstairs café instead?
  4. What else can I get done in the time that I would spend going to Starbucks?

Once we have executed this cost-benefit analysis, we are either motivated to go to Starbucks or dissuaded from making the effort.

Now, picture this on a larger scale. The average student or employed individual has a lot of important decisions to make related to long-term goals. For example, the drive to stay in school after you complete secondary or post-secondary education differs between individuals. While one individual might decide to take an additional 4 years of postgraduate education, another individual might decide to enter the workforce right after graduation and never return back to school.

I believe that societal pressures and cultural influences play a large role in this decision, which can lead someone to conduct an inaccurate cost-benefit analysis that misleads them down a path where they experience no passion. For example, in someone’s cost-benefit analysis, they may prioritize a stable income to support themselves in the future, expectations of their parents and/or culture, and what the current job market is seeking, over what would make them happy in the long-term.

If the justification for why you are gunning for a specific career path doesn’t involve any reason that includes your happiness and subjective well-being, then you might be engaging in faulty reasoning. I’ve seen friends slave away at a job that they hate just because it pays well and they want to move up in the company in the future. Conversely, some of my friends have continued with higher-level education because of parental expectations. Neither of these situations are ideal.

So next time you are making a big decision, consider how you can maximize your future benefits without making your well-being an afterthought in the process. Forty years down the road, you’ll be happy that you did!

By: Parnian Pardis

Parnian is a MSc Candidate at the University of Toronto, conducting research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Her thesis project involves investigating sub-types of treatment-resistance in schizophrenia, and the role of clozapine in their treatment. She aspires to encourage clinicians to adopt best practices within the individualized treatment of each patient. In her spare time, she is a food connoisseur and loves to travel to see new sights!

 

Embracing the in Between Moments in Life


Humans are creatures of habit. We stick to what we know because it’s safe, comfortable, and give us something to hold onto. Perhaps we don’t even realize how comforting our daily rituals and patterns are until they are no longer there and we have nothing to keep us grounded. But change is one of the many beautiful things about growth, and while it may be difficult, it is also what allows us to learn more deeply about ourselves.

I’m a student at the University of Toronto and I live in the heart of downtown during the school year. For the past two summers, I always returned home to California working and spending the days with my sister and my best friends. This summer, however, I decided to stay in Toronto so I would be able to spend time with my boyfriend. I knew it would be difficult being away from my sister and my friends for an even longer stretch of time, but I didn’t anticipate the feelings that would accompany this decision. It’s often easy to let our expectations take over, the montage clip playing out inside our minds of what we envision for ourselves, our fantasies easily carrying us away. I allowed myself to get wrapped up inside my head, and when my fantasy failed to play out the way I expected, I found myself feeling lost.

I failed to anticipate just how difficult it would be to adjust to a completely new environment. My downtown lifestyle fostered a dependence on instant gratification, anything and everything easily within my reach. Transportation was more reliable and convenient, any store imaginable within a short distance of me. In moving to the suburbs, it was more difficult to get around and things were further apart. I was also less familiar with the area, which made it more challenging to explore compared to my downtown environment. However, my biggest adjustment thus far has been the amount of free time I now have.

University is rigorous – it is rare that you have a moment when you are not anticipating an upcoming exam or assignment. At first the freedom from school was invigorating, but as time passed, it began to leave me with a feeling of anxiety. I wasn’t used to the amount of free time and unrealistically expected that I would have found a summer job by now. I think the feelings of anxiety stem from the deeply ingrained notion that we should always be “doing something.” Relaxation and self-care seem to have been dubbed self-indulgent and lazy, and this mentality left me feeling inadequate. I began to feel antsy, wishing and waiting for “my summer”-the fantasy I had crafted inside my head- to begin.

But through much reflection and sitting with these feelings, I have adopted a new perspective. These moments in life when we aren’t “doing something” don’t have to be considered lazy or unambitious. Sometimes they are exactly what is needed for us to discover what we truly want, or to take the time to reconnect with different parts of ourselves we may have neglected. Life is not linear, not everyone’s path is going to look the same, and people take different routes to get to where they are. There are going to be moments in life when our normal everyday routines are shifted, whether by choice or not. Not everything is always going to stay the same, nor should it. Change is natural, and though it may be difficult to adjust to a new situation, it often is what allows us to grow and to learn more about our strengths and what we are able to handle. Instead of berating myself for not working right away or interning somewhere, I am trying to just allow myself to appreciate this time. I know that life is just going to keep getting busier, and moments like these, where you have free time, will likely be rare in the future. It can be very challenging to accept these “in-between” phases in our lives, but they have the potential to create space for new perspectives, and the ability to rediscover our passions and what we truly care about.

By: Talia Main

Talia is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She hopes to continue her education in psychology following graduation. She is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental health through her writing and education.

 

Is it a toxic friendship/relationship?

Many of us have friendships/relationships that are unhealthy for us and may not even be aware. I will list 5 ways that will help you know whether you are in a toxic friendship/relationship.

  1. Lack of trust. One of the most important feelings to have in a relationship is trust. If you feel like you can’t trust the other individual, then this is probably not the best relationship for you to be in. Trust gives you peace of mind when it comes to relationships. Take the trust away, and it is an unhealthy and emotionally draining relationship to be in.
  2. You are always the hero. Saving the other person in a particular situation is great if it happens only sometimes. I am not saying that being supportive is a negative thing, but being supportive at the cost of your own well being might not be the best of situations. If you consistently have to save the person, whether it be emotionally or financially, then you will likely not have enough time for yourself and it is likely not a relationship of mutual caregiving. We all have our ups and downs, so when you hit a low point in your life, it is important to guarantee that you have the ability and the time to nurture and take care of yourself.
  3. Being constantly judged and criticized. If the other person constantly criticizes you and points out your weaknesses, then that is a sign that you are being put down rather than uplifted in that relationship. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but if your weaknesses are constantly being pointed out and your strengths are being ignored, then that person might not be fully accepting of who you are.
  4. Not being accepted. If you constantly find yourself in a position where you need to defend your opinion or change your opinion in order to be accepted, then you might be in an unhealthy relationship. Feelings of acceptance and belonging are vital for healthy human functioning, and we all have a right to feel accepted without the need to constantly explain ourselves.
  5. Communication issues. Do you constantly feel like you are talking to the other person and they are not listening to you or not remembering what you said? If the answer to that question is yes, then it may be difficult to reach a mutual agreement in many aspects of the relationship or friendship. Furthermore, this could indicate that the other person is occupied with another aspect of their life and are not ready to be an equal partner in your relationship. This type of relationship could easily turn into an “all take and no give” relationship that is unhealthy, and even toxic, for you.

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

Risks of Internalizing Beauty Ideals


One of the most natural aesthetic attractions to us is the beauty of the human body. It is a biologically driven inclination—after all, the body is the first thing that is relevant in all activities, as it’s the medium of action. The definition of beauty, however, is not purely biologically based, as it is also shaped by culture. In ancient China, for example, chubbiness and small feet marked a women’s beauty. Even today, some tribal cultures still attribute what our society deems as “obese,” as a sign of power, status, and beauty.

In modern society, media has helped to promote a so-called “perfect body” image for women and men alike. Advances in science and rises of industries like modeling and social media have helped to promote this perfect image. There is a growing abundance of products that are aimed at making this constructed beauty standard seem more accessible than ever. With increasing exposure, many of us start to associate the perfect body shape, and the often too strict diet that goes with it, with the state of being healthy. In an attempt to meet this standard of “healthy,” we start going to the gym, stop eating junk food, abstain from alcohol, etc. While these are generally healthy choices, too many of us become too rigid with the constraints and enter into an incessantly stressed state of mind. When we indulge in a cheat day by eating a cookie or skipping a workout day, we may start to feel guilty and may overcompensate the following day. We may discipline ourselves more strictly in order to prevent a “relapse”. As such, our lifestyle becomes rigid, but not necessarily healthy, for such regime makes our minds filled with anxiety and stress, which negatively impacts our physical and mental wellbeing.

While exercising regularly can improve overall fitness and physical health, over-exercising can counter the progress you’ve been making by inducing feelings of exhaustion and irritability. On a similar note, dieting ensures more nutritious intake and less empty calories and toxic substances, but over-restricting what we eat can mitigate feelings of pleasure and satiation. Even though a healthy diet and exercise routine do require sacrifices, it is important to keep in mind that they are meant to improve our mood and state of mind. If we do not feel like it’s improved, then the diet or the routine needs to be adjusted. It is always important to remember what your goals are when dieting and exercising. This prevents us from conforming to the invisible influence of the beauty culture and ensures that we are pursuing a healthy lifestyle that suits our individual needs.

Beauty may be determined by culture, but health is an individual matter because health is supposed to improve the person, not the image of the person.

By: Ruihong Yuan

Ruihong is a graduate from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currently looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.

The Mental Impact of ‘Grey Divorce’


‘Grey divorce’ (divorce in those aged over 50) is fast becoming known as ‘the new norm’, with Statistics Canada stating that divorce rates have been consistently rising in this age group, and percentages predicted to rise over the next few years as people continue to age. Researchers attribute rising grey divorce rates to many factors, including rising lifespans and seniors’ refusal to settle for an unhappy or unsatisfying marriage. Many see their winter years as an opportunity for newfound independence and freedom. Others wish to meet a partner they can truly feel connected to. Still others are battling mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression as a result of being in an unhappy marriage for so many years.

Depression as a Source of Stress

Chronic stress is related to a host of physical and mental conditions, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Depression in any age is considered the second most stressful life event, as per the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. From a financial perspective, spouses may find that they no longer have the comfortable ‘nest egg’ or pension they were looking forward to enjoying in their senior years. The average cost of a divorce in Canada stands at around $13,000 for a contested divorce, and around $1,400 for an uncontested one.

Grey Divorce is More Economically Stressful

Economists Angela Hung and David Knapp recently compared the financial impact of divorce among couples aged in their 30s and 50s, respectively, finding that those who split up in their 50s are much worse off economically. “if you get divorced in your 30s you still have time to re-enter the workforce if you need to or change your career path. You also have 30 to 40 years to accumulate assets [for retirement]. If you split up in your 50s, you have a much shorter time horizon,” they told Global News Canada. Reduced earnings and the cost of divorce can hit one’s finances at an extremely vulnerable time of life. Evidently, the level of financial stress depends upon issues such as whether or not alimony is due, the extent to which property or assets owned before marriage become mingled into family property, and the amount of family debt owed. Those with young children can also contest financial arrangements regarding their children’s schooling.

The Effect of Grey Divorce of Overall Health

Research has pointed out that the lower one’s socio-economic status, the harder grey divorce can be. Those who have less means are more likely to battle issues such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Getting a divorce can result in couples suddenly having a vastly reduced social network and lower quality of relationships.

Looking for the Silver Lining

Divorce can also affect one’s mental health positively. For instance, those who have been battling depression and stress because they have been putting up with a marriage that makes them unhappy, can delight at their newfound independence. Many seniors also look forward to the chance of meeting someone else. In fact, online dating among seniors is the fastest growing demographic in this industry.

Seniors are living longer, which in itself is a key reason to pursue happiness – even if this means taking the big, bold step that divorce entails. Seniors should be aware of the stress that their decision can entail, taking proactive steps to reduce stress. Yoga, meditation, and spirituality are just a few proven methods to lower levels of stress hormones, which if left unchecked can lower quality of life and provoke physical and mental illness.

By: Jennifer Dawson 

Summer Date Ideas in Toronto


Every couple goes through their share of thinking that they have exhausted all possible date night options. However, with summer creeping just around the corner, there’s no shortage of things to do in Toronto. From activities that allow you to escape the heat to enjoying the beautiful natural resources of the city, we have you covered with having an unforgettable summer with your significant other.

Hit up one of Toronto’s many Food Festivals

Toronto has wide selection of food festivals that happen every summer! From Taste of Asia to Toronto’s Ribfest, there is bound to be a festival that satisfies your tastes.

Cool off at one of Toronto’s ice cream parlours

Summertime in Toronto means it’s time to cool off with some of the city’s best frozen treats. Satisfy your sweet tooth for extravagant cones, scoops, and ice cream sandwiches, by trying out all the unique ice cream and gelato shops in the city. Some suggestions include; Sweet Jesus, Eva’s Original Chimney’s, Arctic Bites, and La Paloma.

Spend a day at Kensington Market

Take a stroll in one of Toronto’s most unique and lively neighbourhoods – the one and only Kensington Market. This neighbourhood is full of local businesses, including art shops, bars, vintage stores, and cafes. It’s nearly impossible to become bored in Kensington Market, despite its small size. Sundays are perfect for this date idea, as it is labelled “Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington” since they close down the streets and Toronto’s local artists, musicians, and performers come out.

Toronto Islands

Although closed until the beginning of August, visiting Toronto Islands is a must during the summer months. With bike trails and canoeing, music festivals of all genres, beaches to tan on, and a miniature theme park with an outdoor maze to become a little kid again, the Islands is enjoyable for all.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Spend the day cooling off by visiting this gigantic aquarium boasting 35,000 square feet of sea and freshwater creatures. With sharks, stingrays that you can pet, and daily shows, the Aquarium makes a perfect date. Bonus points, the Aquarium is located right by the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, which makes for a scenic walk and lots of things to do on a date.

Toronto Zoo

If you’re wild about your significant other and animals, definitely head over to Toronto Zoo during the summer! This enormous zoo will take up the entire day to explore, as it comprises of seven unique regions, including a Tundra Trek and a Canadian wildlife section.

Patio restaurants

Whether it’s private, elegant, casual, sprawling, or shaded, a patio date can be one of the loveliest ways to enjoy an evening with your significant other. Toronto’s plethora of restaurants, cafes, and bars will have you covered with finding a perfect patio for you and your date. Here are just a few of my suggestions: Amsterdam Brewhouse, The Wallflower, Bandit Brewery, Gusto 101, El Catrin, The Dime, and Queen Mother Café.

Picnic

With summer in full swing and gorgeous weather peeking in, a picnic is the perfect date to enjoy food, nature, and especially your loved one’s presence. Here’s a small list of Toronto’s most beautiful parks so that you can escape the urban jungle and enjoy the city’s greenery: Bluffers Park, High Park, Riverdale Park, Dufferin Grove, and Edwards Gardens.

Movie under the stars/outdoor screening

Free outdoor movies appear often throughout the summer amongst various venues and parks in Toronto. Catch a flick with your loved one in the city or go for a short cruise to a drive-in theater along the GTA. My picks include the 5 Drive-in located in Oakville, Landing Park’s City Place, Regent Park’s Weekly Under the Stars movie night, and Toronto Harbourfront’s Free Flicks.

Day trip in Niagara Falls

Take the GO transit, Greyhound, or your own vehicle, and enjoy a weekend getaway at Niagara Falls. Spend the day as tourists and check out the gorgeous Falls by taking the Maid of the Mist or by simply walking along the beautiful path. Also, if you are a shopping enthusiast, there are plenty of outlet stores and malls nearby, as well as the obvious option of crossing over to the States! Finally, enjoy Clifton Hill and its many touristy attractions including, haunted houses, funhouses, and wax museums.

Berry picking

Support a local farm while experiencing a fruitful and tasty experience by picking berries in the GTA. Some farms include Whittamore’s Berry Farm in Markham, the Applewood Farm Winery in Stouffville, Downey’s Farm Market in Brampton, and Walch Family Strawberries in Stratford.

By: Maryam Sorkhou

Maryam Sorkhou is a second year student specializing in psychology at the University of Toronto. Her research interests comprise of mood and personality disorders. She hopes to pursue a career in clinical and counselling psychology, in which she can reduce the stigmas that are often associated with mental illness.