… and 7 ways you can make it better
By Alexandra Massey
January is a depressing time. But none more so than today – Blue Monday – officially the most depressing day of the year. In 2005 Dr Cliff Arnall, a Cardiff University psychologist, devised a formula to show that the third monday of January is exceptionally gloomy.
There’s no doubt that ‘Blue Monday’ has a lot of reasons to make us feel depressed. By the time it arrives, we’re burnt out, penniless and there’s no sign of a holiday until Easter. The energy spent at Christmas needs paying back and many of us are so tired that it feels like one long holiday excess hangover. It’s also the distinct lack of sunlight which is made much worse with the horrible long, dark grey days and generally awful weather. Added to which, many of us have given up on our New Year resolutions leaving us feeling depleted of any motivation.
But all is not lost. There are many ways to boost the mood and make the most of what we have got. Here are some tips to get through today, and the rest of January!
1. Dare To Ditch Your Goals
Now that the New Year is completely underway, you might find your resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. Lose weight, sort out debt, get a new job, get fit, be a nicer person. As well meaning as they are, these goals can put too much pressure on us to conform to an already frazzled life. As motivated as we were when we made them, they can turn us into a depressed wreck when we discover we can’t achieve one, let alone all of them. Instead bring yourself into this moment and ask yourself ‘what have I got to achieve right now?’. Right now you might find that you don’t have to achieve anything! Instead you can relax in the moment knowing that – right now – all is well. That’s a brilliant way to start the New Year.
2. Pump Up Your Love Hormones.
The “love hormone” oxytocin helps us feel more loved (which in turn helps smooth over any post Christmas arguments) and helps us feel more caring and generous towards others. It’s released during sex and orgasm. So, get some candles going, sweet talk your loved one into the bedroom and treat yourself to a boost of love.
3. Take A Walk
With so many of us suffering from the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression brought on by a lack of winter sunlight, one answer is to get out for a brisk walk. Just 15 minutes a day can top up your Vitamin D levels which could give you that spring in your step. Not only that, it also ticks the daily exercise box which is another instant mood booster.
4. Boost Your Mood Food
You might think that there’s no hope for your diet after the Christmas binge! However, it doesn’t take much to turn around the feel good factor when it comes to food. Instead of hoovering up the last of the chocolates, get in some quick mood-foods which can make you feel better within hours.
Put a bowl of fruit on the table where you’re more likely to be enticed to pick up an apple rather than a piece of Christmas cake. Get some cleansing green veg in the fridge and add an extra portion to your daily meal. Grab a bag of nuts to get that feel good factor; almonds are a great contender. Instead of your usual wine o’clock ‘glass of something’, try a grated ginger tea. This will put a zing in your step.
5. Throw A Party
Instead of ‘talking’ to your friends on Facebook, why not invite them around? In fact, invite a crowd! As tempting as it is to stay tucked up at home when it’s cold outside, being cut off from your social support network can make you feel worse. Face to face contact prompts certain physiological responses in the brain that boosts our mental health in a way that Facebook can never do. So get everyone around for a ‘help me mop up the Christmas goodies’ party and purge your house of all that food and drink that you’re trying not to eat.
6. Get A Fur Fix
Studies show that interacting with a cat or dog lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety, improves physical and mental health and gives a feeling of well-being. It’s an instant depression fixer. Either borrow a dog and combine it with Tip 3 (Take A Walk) or consider getting a rescue dog. The post-Christmas season means animal shelters receive an influx of unwanted pets, especially since the economic turndown. Of course, a dog is for life, not just Blue Monday, but there’s nothing that can teach you the art of Zen like a dog or a cat.
7. Practice Mindfulness
Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can beat depression fast. So fast you’ll be amazed. Oxford University has discovered that it also helps relieve emotional distress.
How to start? There are many brilliant books on the subject but to get started right now, do this quick exercise: As you read this sentence, take a pause between each word and escort your attention to your breath. What’s it doing? Can you feel it go in and out of your nose? And down into your body? Pay attention to the different temperatures as it goes in and out. And as your attention wanders, which it will, simply escort it back to your breath. And then do it again…and again…and again.
Finally, remember it’s all temporary and it will pass. When you’re feeling depressed it can often seem that everyone else is having a great life and you’re the only one who’s struggling. In this case, we’re all in it together and just knowing that can be a great comfort!