This Blue Monday, Beat the Blues
With the festive season already a distant memory, and most of us getting back into our daily routine, January can be a particularly bleak month. Combined with the shorter days, dreary weather, failed new years’ resolutions and tight purse strings after the Christmas splurge, AND a Monday to boot, and you can get something else entirely.
For those who are wondering about the significance of Blue Monday, it is the name given to the third Monday in January and is considered the most depressing day of the year. With one in four of us experiencing depression at some point in our lives, according to mental health charity, Mind, Blue Monday provides an opportunity for all of us to focus on our own mental wellbeing and to be more considerate of the people around us.
There are many things we can do to beat the blues that are easy to incorporate into our daily routines. I’ve put some tips together to help anyone looking to lift their spirits at what can often be a challenging time of year.
Start small - eat happy
It’s a no brainer that eating timely and healthy meals is key to maintaining a good mood and optimum health. With busy lifestyles it can be hard to avoid processed foods and easy meals but by being prepared and smart about what food you eat, you will reap the benefits.
Foods that naturally boost levels of serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter) include bananas, eggs, nuts and seeds, vegetables, milk and cheese. Try to avoid processed, high-sugar foods and keep alcohol and caffeine intake minimal to avoid increased levels of anxiety and depression.
Feel the shine
Research has shown that lack of sunlight during winter months can cause a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The decline in mood during the darker months can be hard to avoid, but we must make use of any opportunity to step outside and feel the sun on our face – or any natural light for that matter.
A regular dose of exercise may be just what you need to elevate your mood. Finding time for a daily spot of yoga, or going for a jog, walking your pet around the nearest park, or even completing chores around your house could help your body relax. With so many exercise classes now available online, you can still get involved from the comfort of your own home.
People who regularly express gratitude for positive things in their life are shown to be happier overall, leading to lower rates of stress and depression. Studies also suggest that those who practice gratitude regularly appear to have a more positive outlook on life.
Try starting your day by writing down one thing that went well the previous day and why it went well - you can do this while eating breakfast or on your commute to work. Writing it down will not only allow you to reflect on your actions but it will enable you to continue growing.
And finally, sleep well
Sleep is considered the best form of meditation. A good night’s sleep – along with healthy eating and exercise, is one of the core pillars of good health. Maintaining a regular routine, avoiding caffeine close to bedtime, allowing fresh circulation of air in your sleeping space, and avoiding digital devices or screens at least one hour before bedtime, will help improve your sleeping pattern.
Though these tips can help to beat the blues, it’s not always obvious when people are struggling. Be mindful of others’ moods and check in on your friends, family, and co-workers during this challenging time of year and, where necessary, encourage each other to seek mental health advice from professionals.