The third Monday in January is, if scientists are to be believed, the most depressing day of the year. In 2021 it falls on the 18th January. Why? Christmas has come and gone and, having come through a pretty tough year, the difficulties we were all hoping to leave behind look set to continue for a bit longer yet. What you need is a strategy for beating the blues. This is it.
1: Ban the booze
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, it could be your festive tippling that’s to blame. While alcohol helps the celebrations go with a swing, what makes you feel good at the time can make you feel pretty lousy in the cold light of day. And it’s not just the hangover headache that’s likely to get you down.
Alcohol is a depressant; quite literally what goes up has to come down. If your mood is suffering a seasonal dip, avoid the temptation to drink to make yourself feel better – alcohol will only make things worse. Why not join the Dry January crowd and bin the booze for a few weeks? Your mind, body and wallet will thank you for it.
2: Eat yourself happy
It might be hard to countenance the thought of food when you feel like one of the pigs in blankets you devoured over Christmas, but if you eat the right things, you’ll quickly lose any extra pounds you’ve gained and feel brighter to boot.
Research shows that people who feast on a fruit, veg, wholegrain and seafood rich Mediterranean diet, are 30% less likely to suffer from depression. Eat like an Italian and you’ll reap the benefits of Omega-3, inflammation beating antioxidants, mood enhancing B vitamins and folate, and more.
You’ve spent so long sat in front of the telly that you’ve left a permanent dent in the sofa, and your thumb is calloused from flicking through the channels in search of something watchable. Chances are you found the switch from sloth mode to work mode somewhat trying, and even now, the thought of getting up on dark mornings leaves you cold.
One of the best ways to make sure you stay chirpy this winter is to find yourself a good winter coat and get out and about. Swap your slippers for your trainers because exercise is one of the sharpest weapons in your depression-beating armoury. Getting breathless for thirty minutes five days a week triggers the release of feel good endorphins. You’ll also lose weight, look better and be less likely to keel over from a heart attack. Do check with your GP before starting your exercise campaign.
4: Get social
It’s tempting to hibernate during the short days and long, dark nights of January and February. But spending too much time alone can make you feel tired, lethargic and, in some cases, depressed.
Even if you need to stay at home, making an effort to keep in touch with friends and family can really boost your mood. The New Year is a great time to finally act on one of your resolutions. Always fancied taking up painting, pottery or pilates? Check out your local council’s adult education service to see what’s on offer – even if those activities are online for the time being. Connecting with others, even virtually, is a great way to stave off the winter blues. Or what about something more community-minded. Check out Do IT for volunteering opportunities near you.
5: Chill out
Those seeking a more drastic solution to the downbeat days of deep winter could do far worse than stripping off to their Speedos and taking a leap of faith into the nearest stretch of freezing outdoor water.
That’s because immersion in frigid water stimulates your vagus nerve – the nerve that connects your brain to all your major organs. It’s a vital component of your parasympathetic nervous system – your “rest and digest” network. Switch that on and you’ll switch off the sympathetic nervous system – your “fight or flight” stress response, and you’ll feel great, albeit cold.
6: Plan ahead
There’s nothing like having something to look forward to, to lift the spirits. After the trials of 2020, now’s a great time to start thinking about a holiday and researching some winter, spring or summer sunshine.
Can’t afford to book right now? Not a problem – it’s not the booking that makes you feel better, it’s the planning. Work out a way to begin saving today, and start putting pennies aside for your dream holiday. Being proactive is a great mood booster.
We hope we’ve inspired you to keep your chin up on Blue Monday and beyond, but we know depression can be a serious illness. If you’ve been feeling low for weeks or more and you just can’t seem to snap out of it, do pay your GP a visit, or call The Samaritans – they’re there to help.