Here’s how to make the most depressing Monday of the year a little bit better.

Monday’s can feel bad at the best of times. But today is known as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year.

January as a whole is a hard month for a lot of us. Getting paid before Christmas seemed like a godsend back in mid-December when we’d spent all our money on gifts and the inevitable Christmas drinks (which admittedly, potentially got out of hand, how many times can you really go for a post-work drink just because it’s Christmas?). Now, as we near the end of January (how, by the way?) that pay slip feels like a distant memory, many of us have been suffering from SAD, the weather is dark and miserable and the majority of us are willing for Spring to arrive.

This day in particular has achieved it’s glum name for many reasons. The term ‘Blue Monday’ was given to a day in January, typically the third Monday of the month, back in 2005 as part of a press release from Sky Travel. Claiming that it was the most depressing day of the year, they had calculated logical argument for this. This equation took into account the general weather conditions at this time of year in the UK (the research found it was only deemed relevant to the Northern Hemisphere), debt level, the time since Christmas, the time since failing our new year’s resolutions and low motivational levels. The name has justly stuck since.

Liz Ritchie, a Psychotherapist at St Andrew’s Healthcare who specialises in self-care and body image, knows that there are things that we can all do to help to overcome the despair that Blue Monday can bring. Liz provides specialist therapy to patients with complex mental health illness, many of whom struggle with issues of identity and self-worth, so she understands the overwhelming impact that this particular day can have on people. She recently supported Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson, who was going through a difficult time regarding internet trolls, and appeared on her BBC documentary Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out.

“Most of us have heard the saying ‘winter blues’ referring to feeling low and deflated over the winter – especially once the excitement of Christmas is over and reality sets back in. Unless you spend the winter in sunnier climes abroad, you are stuck with the UK’s reduced daylight hours.” Liz said. “You may be commuting to and from work in the dark, comfort eating, and feel like you’ve not seen daylight for weeks on end, all of which can lead to low mood, which can increase feelings of sadness and anxiety.”

However, she does exclaim that there are ways of conquering these feelings of January dampness, and they’re not all too difficult to do. “From things such as staying active, eating well, trying new hobbies and keeping in touch with friends. January doesn’t have to be a month where you hibernate, why not invite friends over for a night of healthy eating!” Liz added.

So, how can you help yourself if you’re feeling the effects of January? St. Andrew’s Healthcare has put together these top tips to encourage you to beat those unwanted winter blues.

Get outside

Research has shown that many of us are affected by SAD. The symptoms for SAD are often more pronounced in January and February and include low mood, feeling lethargic, sleeping for longer, irritability, feelings of despair and loss of pleasure. If you think that you’re experiencing SAD then it’s worth speaking to your GP, but everyone will benefit from increasing their exposure to sunlight throughout the day – why not take a walk at lunchtime and boost your physical and emotional wellbeing, too!

Get active

Often we struggle with the motivation to exercise in the winter, as it may be dark when you get home or it’s cold and rainy. Why not bring the exercise indoors! If the gym is not for you, how about an exercise DVD at home? Or a local Zumba, Boxercise or yoga class? Or you could just switch some music on and dance around your living room – anything to get your heart pumping and those endorphins buzzing.

Eat well

Be mindful of your eating habits; it is easy to forget that you need to be nourished as well as satisfied. Try and eat right. Winter often makes us want to stock up on carbs and fats to feel comforted and full, but it’s important to have a well-balanced diet. Stock up on good foods – it doesn’t all have to be about kale, it’s the perfect season for hearty soups and stews!

Get social

Avoid the temptation to hibernate. While there is nothing wrong with being cosy indoors, if we do this for too long we tend to miss out on our relationships with others which provide us with social interaction. Say yes to invitations and make an effort to spend time with people, especially positive ones who lift your spirits.

Make plans

Look ahead and have something to look forward to. That summer holiday might feel like lightyears away so make sure you get some dates in the diary for fun activities throughout the year. Go and see that show at the theatre you have been meaning to see, have a spa day, plan a weekend away, get tickets for the football or look at events that you can set a goal for, such as a 10k race or fun run. Even volunteering for a local charity, being Charitable isn’t just for Christmas. Having something to look forward to can really benefit our emotional health and keep us motivated.

Challenge yourself

New Year’s resolutions can be a great opportunity to try something new, and test your boundaries, but make sure you are setting realistic goals and plan for them. For example, if you have set yourself a goal to run a marathon, plan your training with smaller achievable goals throughout the year, such as running a 5k race and build it up from there. This can give you a real sense of purpose and achievement. Setting goals jointly with someone else is great for motivation and moral support. Why do resolutions only have to be at New Year? Consider setting yourself other goals and resolutions at different points in the year too.

Celebrate the good stuff

It’s easy to remember the bad stuff and forget about the little things. As January is still young, why not start a memory jar? Add in notes about all the good things that happen throughout the year then on New Year’s Eve open the jar and read through all the great stuff that happened in 2020.

Why not try one of these tips out? You might surprise yourself at how much getting outside on your lunch break rather than sitting in your office kitchen could make a difference. Or challenge yourself physically and head to your nearest Park Run every Saturday morning, you’ll start to feel fitter and will make a whole new group of friends by being there. We’ve also put together a list of products to help you chill out this Blue Monday, a nice relaxing bath can do wonders when we’re feeling down and stressed.

Feature image: Small Business