The third Monday of January, also known as Blue Monday, has been calculated to be the most depressing day of the year. Cheerful right? Factors such as weather, debt, time since Christmas and, surprise surprise, it’s a time most of us have failed our New Year’s resolution by. I don’t know if I buy into it – in reality the whole of the winter is kind of depressing, but good days and bad days come and go, and we move on!
However, if you’re struggling around this time of year, here are some ways to cheer yourself up. There’s no doubt that the holidays can sometimes leave us drained. Changes in routine can leave us sleep deprived and unmotivated, especially when paired with media messages trying to get us to buy into every fad. Why not try these little things to reset your mind and body, and make Blue Monday into a positive day, instead of the miserable day the media wants us to expect.
Take care of your mind
Too little time to ourselves over Christmas can mean we forget to give ourselves a break. The first thing that goes when we are very busy is time alone and time to rest. Try these to get back some of that peace of mind.
Headspace app: Meditation has shown to help people relieve stress, focus more and sleep better, leaving us better able to cope with everything else in life. The headspace app takes you through meditation. If you’re like me (i.e. hyperactive and constantly distracted), it’s better than an hour’s yoga, because it’s only a few minutes long. Everyone can spare 10 minutes a day!
Dancing: It may sound silly, but putting on some great tracks and having a ridiculously enthusiastic dance around your room can do wonders for your mind. It doesn’t have to be long, just long enough to get your heart rate up and put a smile on your face. We spend so long being serious, this is a nice change of routine.
Colouring in/drawing: Drawing or colouring in relaxes the brain, especially the fear centres of the brain, reducing anxiety and stopping us from focussing on any worries we might have. Grab an adult colouring in book and set aside some time each week to reset your mind to neutral.
Do good: Helping others is an intrinsically rewarding activity, promoting positive emotions in our own brains. It also can add perspective to problems. Doing good also improves optimism, confidence and gives you a feeling of purpose, without which many people struggle. Consider donating to charity, volunteering or simply helping someone out at work.
Get a SAD lamp: One of the major issues in winter in Northern latitudes is that the daylight hours are very short. Too short, in fact, to acquire enough vitamin D during the day. Low levels of vitamin D can contribute to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and this leaves many people feeling low in winter. A SAD lamp has particular frequencies that allows the body to produce more vitamin D. Put it on in the morning to help you wake up, and in early afternoon to reduce afternoon slumps. Check out my post on how to beat the winter blues to learn more. It’s also recommended that everyone in the UK takes vitamin D supplements in winter!
Social media: Unfollow accounts that make you feel inadequate, jealous or any other negative emotions. Sure, it’s good to aspire to things, but following accounts with unrealistic life goals is never going to make you feel better! Cull cull cull and then find pictures of puppies, great food and positive posts to look at instead. Try not to spend too much time on social media – no more than 2h a day across all platforms. Heavy usage is linked to higher rates of depression.
Tidy up: It’s very tempting, when it’s dark outside, to curl up in bed after throwing all your belongings onto your floordrobe and go to sleep. However, having high levels of clutter at home and at work can mess your mind up too. Need inspiration? Read this.
Stop giving a fuck: It’s fairly self-explanatory, but if you need it breaking down, I can thoroughly recommend this book.
Live in the moment: Worrying about the future, the past and the present is understandably exhausting and stressful for the brain. Living in the moment (using some of the techniques from above) can really help lover anxiety and depression. Another book recommendation: The Power of Now.
Take care of your body
Watch what you eat: and by that I don’t mean eat less. I just mean literally be aware of what you are eating. Paying attention to what we eat increases enjoyment and reduces mindless munching on the nearest available snack. In winter we often rely on sugar to power through energy slumps, but this can backfire, leaving us with sugar crashes, lowering both concentration and mood. Be aware of what you’re eating and you might find a pattern to explain your mood throughout the day. Want a holistic guide to nutrition? Check out Rhiannon’s new book!
Take vitamin D: As mentioned above, vitamin D is key to our mental health, but also plays a role in maintaining bone health and immunity. The majority of people in the UK are deficient over winter, so taking some supplements may improve your mood.
Workout: Yes, bed is cosy, and yes, it’s dark so early, but working out in winter is one of the best ways to keep negativity at bay. It gives you routine and a sense of purpose and achievement. If you’re not working out 30 minutes, 3 times a week (at least), this is one of the best things you could do to improve your mind-set. If you’re not a fan of the gym, find a sport you think you’ll enjoy and join a club – the added social interaction gives a double whammy of benefits. However, overdoing it (hello New Year’s resolutions to run 10 miles everyday) may backfire, leaving you exhausted and dreading every workout. Keep a balanced schedule with plenty of rest days so you don’t burn out!
Get plenty of sleep: I’ve gone into this in a bit more detail here, so check it out!
I hope you find this helpful – these are some of the things that have helped me over winter in general, and this time of year can be especially hard on some. This advice is sort of always useful, even if you don’t feel particularly down. Check out my instagram for more health and fitness advice.