How to beat the January blues - by happiness therapists
January is well known as the grimmest month of the year – the Christmas tree is down (or it should be, according to tradition), everyone's on a diet and off the booze, and the weather is like having a freezing sponge chucked in your face. Plus, this year, we have the added misery of Omicron and rising prices.
Beating the blues seems a tall order - easier to hide under a duvet till it's over. But trust us, it can be done.
This week, Carole Middleton – mum to the Duchess of Cambridge – posted on Instagram acknowledging the gloom, but offering a little hope too.
She wrote: "It’s no surprise I‘ve learned to love January; it’s the start of a new year and time to get healthy habits in place and birthday month for me, so there is every good reason to celebrate with loved ones!"
Well Carole, we can't all have a birthday - but we can adopt at least one or two healthy (ish) habits, and we can definitely have fun.
We asked a whole bunch of therapists and life coaches for their best tips on beating the January Blues. Here's their advice.
"January is a tough month. It's the middle of the winter, it's cold, damp and grey and money is tight after overspending on festivities," says Anne Iarchy, a Healthy Lifestyle Coach.
"To top it all off we are "expected" to make new year resolutions. But big, swooping changes are being made by many to only crash down a couple of weeks later."
She suggests the following.
Make sure to go out for a 20 minute daily walk during daylight. Being out and about will fill you with renewed energy and focus through the bit of daylight there is but also through reconnecting with nature — even if it's just the local park.
Cut down on social media noise. The expectation of 'crushing it' is amplified on social media. Don't get sucked into it.
Each evening, make a list of 3 small things you want to do the following day and prepare whatever is needed in advance to help you achieve it.
Don't skimp on your sleep. It's easy to stay up under a throw to watch the next few episodes on Netflix. But your body needs its beauty sleep - even more so now than in the summer.
Read more: January blues: cross-country skiers hold clues to beating it
"In January we tend to think all about restricting ourselves (food, alcohol, socialising)," says Bex Spiller, Founder of The Anti-Burnout Club.
"But it's already a cold and miserable month, so restricting is just going to make you feel worse.
Instead of "What can I take away from myself in January?" think "What can I give to myself in January?" Maybe it's more time for self-care, more time seeing people who light you up, more fruit, vegetables or water, more sleep!
Find little moments of mindfulness
It doesn't need to be shutting yourself in a dark room to meditate for hours. Instead, try bringing your attention to how you feel when you're washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, or on your morning commute. If you notice a specific emotion, simply label it - sadness, happiness, guilt, anger, joy.
These little mindful moments throughout the day can help stop us ruminating on the past and bring our attention back to the present.
Watch: How can I improve my mental health?
Consider a SAD lamp
One reason many of us feel low in January is simply due to the lack of light - and around 3% of people in the UK actually suffer from seasonal affective disorder. It may be that you're not getting enough light in your life in these colder winter months, so a SAD lamp can help brighten your days (in more ways than one).
"Try not to get stuck in the new year resolution trap" says Kristy Lomas Founder of The Ki Retreat and multidisciplined therapist. "These often set up unrealistic targets & apply extra pressure that isn't needed."
Remember that traditionally, winter is a time in which we should pause, reflect and hibernate. It isn't a time to be charging forward, creating immediate changes.
There is nothing wrong with feeling low in energy at this time of year - there are biological reasons why we do. Slowing down and healthy habits such as meditation and mindfulness practices are the best activities to start during this period.
Read more: Happiness Boils Down to These 3 Things, According to Yale Course
One habit worth trying is cold water therapy. There's a lot of research emerging on the benefits of this. An easy way to introduce yourself to this is a (very brief) cold shower. Start with a 20 second blast at the end of the shower and slowly increase the time (have a nice cup of tea brewing whilst you're in there for when you get out!)
Cold water therapy has been shown to create endorphins, activate your sympathetic nervous which helps deal with stressful situations and also helps boost the immune system & raises noradrenaline.
Zoé Carroll, wellbeing coach and happiness facilitator, advises:
Change your posture
Change your body shape to shake off the blues - being cold and 'hunkered in' can trigger your body's threat response.
Unlike it's sexier running away 'flight or fight' system, this can trigger the 'freeze and fawn' response, where we naturally want to curl up in our burrow quietly until the danger has passed.
Stand tall, get warm and smile - the smile is important because nerves in your face identify that you wouldn't be smiling if there really was a threat, and making yourself bigger improves blood flow and tells your body that you're feeling confident and safe.
Blast out some fun music and warm your body up from the inside out - make sure the music is cheesy so that you smile, giving your body and brain the cue that you're happy again!
And for some quick wins to lift your mood, Anji McGrandles, a workplace mental wellbeing expert and founder of The Mind Tribe, suggests:
Don’t set yourself unrealistic goals that are hard to maintain
If you do set goals or resolutions start small and keep it simple
Stay in your own lane – don’t get caught up in what others are doing, just focus on what’s right for you
Get outside - taking a brisk walk and getting some fresh air boosts your serotonin levels
Boost your wellbeing with multivitamins (particularly Vitamin D)
Plan a holiday or a day out with friends so you have something to look forward to
Take a break from social media
Surround yourself with people who lift your mood
Get stuck into a funny boxset or novel
Avoid fad diets - instead aim for balance when it comes to diet.
Watch: How to increase your energy