Blue Monday, the third Monday of the year, was coined 14 years ago by a PR firm.
But the whimsical campaign seemed to tap into something: many people agreed that they do hit a monumental slump in the second half of January.
By Blue Monday most of us will have broken our New Year’s resolutions and the majority of us still have at least another week or more until we get paid.
You can get why it might not be the most optimistic of times.
But experts say that seeing it a different way – as a moment to take stock of where you’re at and how your year is going – can make it incredibly positive.
January can be hard on your mental health but there are some tactics you can employ to feel strong
1. Find THREE good things to boast about
Yes, your trousers might be unusually tight, your bank balance is running on empty, you’ve got the back to work blues and no time off to look forward to for months.
But try focusing on what you have got to be grateful for rather than what you haven’t.
Dr Martin Seligman, director of the Penn Positive Psychology and author of Authentic Happiness, says writing down three positive things that happen to you daily (and why they were positive) helps reduce that stress.
Try it from today.
There is evidence to show both the de-stressing effects of being grateful, especially if you make a concerted effort to document it.
2. Go for mood-boosting foods
Rob Hobson, Head of Nutrition for well-being brand Healthspan, explains that nutrients can help you head off the blues.
‘Making small strategic changes to your diet could dramatically reduce mood swings, food cravings, irritability and tiredness – as well as boost your memory and concentration,’ he says.
‘If you want to feel more upbeat and keep your moods on a more even keel avoid processed foods high in refined carbohydrates (cakes, pastries, pies and many ready meals), skip (or at least cut down on) alcohol and caffeine and make a beeline for mood-boosting foods.’
Mood-boosting foods include:
- Salmon (omega 3-rich fish oil may help with symptoms of depression)
- Lean red meat (keep iron stores up to fight tiredness and fatigue)
- Mussels (one of the highest sources of vitamin B12 as well as iron)
- Eggs (great source of B12, a deficiency of which has been linked to low mood and depression)
- Asparagus (one of the richest plant sources of tryptophan)
- Bananas (these contain the amino acid tryptophan plus vitamin B6 which helps convert tryptophan into boost-boosting serotonin)
- Oats (slow release sugars in these help maintain balanced blood sugar levels)
- Brazil nuts (rich in selenium, a deficiency of which is linked to low mood
- Pumpkin seeds (rich in magnesium. Low intakes are linked to low mood and depression)
- Dark chocolate (helps to trigger the pleasure hormone dopamine)
3. Be kind
Simple acts of kindness and politeness can improve your mental health and even reduce physical pain according to research.
Check on elderly neighbors, give blood, donate to your local food bank, volunteer locally.
Give up a seat for someone, buy a stranger a coffee, help carry a pushchair up the stairs, start a fundraising event.
A 2006 study by the National Institutes of Health found when people gave to charity it activated the parts of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust creating a kind of ‘helper’s high’.
4. Get the sleep you dream of
Sleep pattern all out of whack after the festivities?
Being sleep-deprived (generally taken to mean six hours or less a night) is linked to everything from weight gain to a weakened immune system.
It is also likely to make you grumpy and less productive. Avoid booze before bed, lay off the caffeine after 4pm, try to keep your bedtime and waking times largely consistent.
If you are having trouble nodding off, or staying asleep, try a bath before bed containing muscle-relaxing magnesium flakes 30 minutes before you turn in.
5. Slim down without denying yourself any food
On average, we put on around 3lbs over the festive period and many of us start dieting immediately in a bid to lose it.
We also, sadly, tend to fail.
Jackie Wicks, creator and author of the Cheats & Eats Lifestyle Programme has spent years trying to understand why and concludes that we set ourselves up to fail by going on diets that are ultra-restrictive and then getting into a negative cycle of stressing and distressing over food.
A healthy, sustainable eating plan where no food is off the table; food is split simply into two basic groups: ‘Cheats’ (the foods you probably crave most) and ‘Eats’ (foods that will help you lose weight).
6. Swallow the sunshine vitamin
Flu season is still in full swing so aim to nurture your health as far as possible in a bid to avoid it and build your immunity generally.
GP and Medical Nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer says: ‘Vitamin D is vital for immunity, as well as for healthy bones’, adding ‘deficiency is one reason why some people experience frequent coughs, colds, respiratory infections and even asthma attacks at this time of year’.
A lack of it is also linked to low mood and depression.
Vitamin D is created in the body via sunlight (hence being dubbed ‘the sunshine vitamin’) and obviously that is in short supply in January in the UK and many parts of the US.
7. Go out for a bit
It might be a bit chilly, a little bit gray but getting yourself outdoors for a brisk walk for just 30 minutes is an effective way to help improve low mood, anxiety and mild to moderate depression. It should help you feel clearer-headed.
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, releases endorphins and neurotransmitters like serotonin, known to enhance mood.
It should also help to shift your turkey and wine belly.
Personal trainer Nicola Addison of EQVVS Training says: ‘Any exercise is helpful just as long as you do enough of it and enjoy it so you keep at it.’
8. Have something to look forward to
Scrolling through images of gorgeous sunny locations will help remind you the sky isn’t always gray and you there is life beyond your desk.
In a bid to get us to forget the miserable associations of Blue Monday Dr Cliff Arnall has joined forces with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays for its ‘Screw It, Let’s Do It’ campaign aimed at getting us to focus on creating new adventures.
Can’t afford a holiday?
Book an event like a posh afternoon tea or a spa break – discounted ones are always available at the time of year on voucher sites like Groupon.
9. Have a word with yourself
There is no ‘science’ behind the whole idea of Blue Monday and it is entirely normal to feel a bit down about going back to work after the Christmas break.
As Psychologist Dr Megan Arroll points out: ‘We may dread winter and January, but If you continually tell yourself how horrible it is, chances are it will feel grim. Try and change your internal monologue about this time of year.’
You can do that by writing down your achievements and goals, celebrating what you have accomplished, and breaking down your aims into bite-size pieces.
10. Eat the right foods to feel more energized
Feeling unusually tired?
‘Tucking into foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI) – where the sugars are absorbed more slowly – will give you more sustained energy levels,’ says Rob Hobson.
Low GI foods include whole grains like brown rice, wholemeal pasta and wholemeal bread; high fiber vegetables and nuts and healthy oils.
Proteins and fats also have very low GI.
11. Plan to end the year a bit richer
At this time of year, you’re strapped for cash and probably got paid before Christmas making this feel like the longest month in the history of the known world.
But as long as you can lay your hands on one dollar – or one pound – you can help yourself out.
Start saving just one a day from today and you will have over 300 by the year’s end to spend on whatever you want.