Mondays are often called “Blue Monday” because it’s the end of the weekend and start of the workweek. But did you know there’s an actual Blue Monday and it’s considered the most depressing day of the year? It usually landing on the third Monday in January, and in 2021, it’s Monday, Jan. 18.
After December holiday festivities and merriment, January usually comes in cold, with bleak weather, people tightening their budgets because of overspending and practicing healthy living after a period of overindulging.
For these reasons, January can sometimes feel like a long and difficult month to get through. These pressures are said to peak on Blue Monday and can spark feelings of depression, sadness and, in general, low motivation.
Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind, highlights several ways we can overcome the January blues:
1. Physical activity
“Feeling low can reduce your desire to be physically active, especially as exercise is less appealing during winter months like January. While you may not feel like it, physical activity can be very effective in lifting your mood and increasing your energy levels,” says Buckley.
“Research shows that outdoor exercise, such as cycling or jogging, can be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression. If running in winter isn’t for you, activities such as Zumba, dance classes and even trapeze classes have been shown to have many positive benefits for people’s mental health. Lots of gyms have free trial passes and offers running throughout January.
2. Set a realistic resolution
“In terms of New Year’s resolutions think about setting yourself a challenge which is achievable,” the mental health expert explains. “This can be much more rewarding than putting on the pressure to complete a massive challenge, which might feel overwhelming.”
So, if your resolution is applying too much pressure on your lifestyle, there’s no shame in adjusting it slightly.
3. Get creative
“Creative activities are particularly therapeutic because they help you switch off from day-to-day pressures, turn negative thoughts or feelings into something positive, and give people the opportunity to socialize,” says Buckley.
“Whether it is card-making, knitting, crocheting, or bauble-making, crafting of all kinds can be good for our mental health. There has been a huge influx in adult coloring books in the last few years to help people with their well-being and mindfulness.”
We recommend signing up to an evening class, after recent research has highlighted the benefits to both our physical and mental health. The University of Oxford study followed 135 adults and found that, after they had completed their seven-month courses (including craft, singing and creative writing), the adults felt more confident, motivated to be active and generally happier.
4. Eat well
“As tempting as it is to reach for comfort foods to cheer you up, especially as the festive season has left us used to nibbling on chocolate, eating lots of foods high in fat and carbohydrate can often cause blood sugar levels to crash, resulting in sluggishness. This can potentially increase your anxiety levels,” Buckley explains.
“A healthy, balanced diet is as important for your mental health as your physical health, so it’s best to include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fatty oils such as omega-3 and 6. Try to avoid stimulants such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Some people find that taking extra vitamin B12 is helpful. A healthy balanced diet is also crucial for a good night’s sleep, which is vital for your mental health.”
5. Make the most of natural light
“January also means going back to work after a holiday period. Taking regular work breaks can help. This is perhaps more important in winter because people will often travel to work in darkness and then leave in darkness, so try to leave your desk and go for a short walk at lunchtime to get your much needed dose of light and fresh air.”
6. Change your environment
“Another tip, which can help lift your mood, is thinking about making or changing something in your own environment. For example, re-painting your walls to a lighter color or using one-way blinds which let the maximum amount of light in without being transparent for those outside,” says Buckley.
“While at work, perhaps you could consider moving desks to ensure you are near a window or away from a dark place. Little things like this can help you feel productive and lift your mood.”