The New Year is hopefully the opportunity for many of us to start afresh, to reflect on the year gone past and to look optimistically ahead to the new. But no sooner have we got going then Blue Monday is upon us with its negative vibes trying to make us feel sad, bad and downright miserable. This not-too impressive day, which falls annually on the 3rd Monday in January is, according to Google, the day that is the most depressing day of the year. Nice right?!

Identified 16 years ago by Cliff Arnall, who, then a tutor at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, calculated this date to be such by using a formula that included looking at the weather, time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year’s resolutions (how are yours going by the way?), time that people’s motivation levels are supposedly at the lowest, debt anxieties and numerous other factors. However, Wikipedia (obviously a valued and trusted source of information?!) say’s it was introduced by a travel company. Whatever you believe, this time of year is a difficult one with large bills, inclement weather and dark nights, what’s to love about it?

But we don’t have to succumb to such negative thinking. There are always plenty of things in our lives we can be positive about which can really boost our mood, we just need to look for them and notice them more. Recent studies suggest that practising gratitude every day for the little things we do have rather than what we don’t can really help our mental health and build our resilience which in turn can help us feel more in control of the things we want to change in our lives as well as getting through challenging times.

There’s also plenty of things for us to engage with (even during lockdown) that can help us look after our mental health and wellbeing and to get us through the so-called winter blues. Personally, I like to get out for a walk with my dog, spend time with my family, crochet, read and watch films. I find this combination of activity and relaxation works well for me, what about you?

Some other things that may help include…

  • Have something to look forward to – plan a local-only walk with a friend, schedule a regular catch-up call/Zoom with a friend or family member/s, join a virtual weekly quiz night or yoga class.
  • Declutter – take control by blitzing a room in your home, or all the rooms if you feel like it.
  • Decorate – if you want a change of scenery why not redecorate the house or even just your home office. Create the kind of space you want to work and/or live in.
  • Sleep – get yourself into a better sleep routine, eliminate blue light and distractions in your bedroom, go to bed a bit earlier if needs be.
  • Have a go at some meditation/mindfulness – there are loads of good apps out there to do this, I always recommend Headspace and Calm to my clients.
  • Self-care – invest in you, set aside some time every day/week to do something for you, that you enjoy.
  • Draw up an action plan – this can be a plan to sort out those dreaded bills, to get back on track with your resolutions or to develop your skills with an online course.
  • Eat well and make sure you have a balanced diet (but allow yourself some treats now and then).
  • Engage in some gentle exercise, something that you like doing, better if its outside but indoors is good too.
  • Get creative – relax your mind and try your hand at knitting, painting, drawing or even writing poems, you might discover a hidden skill you never knew you had.
  • Carry out random acts of kindness – doing something nice for others or even just helping them with a task has actually been proven to help benefit your own well-being too.
  • Keep a daily gratitude diary – write down 10 things of what you can be grateful for that day (add more if you feel like it).

There will be many more – what others do you know of?

Doing things like the above can really help if you are feeling low and not just during Winter but anytime of the year.  But most importantly it’s pays to be kind to yourself and it you don’t feel like doing anything then go with that too, let go of the pressure of ‘should be doing’ and instead listen to your mind and body and take whatever time out you feel you need. Remember, it is ok to feel blue at times and you are doing the best you can with what internal resources you have.

If you find that your mood isn’t improving however, it may help by talking with someone to get to the root cause of what is causing you to feel low. Is there a friend or family member who you can confide in? If not, perhaps someone impartial like a counsellor who can help you to work through your feelings? Remember, you’re not alone and it’s OK to ask for help and if you need, your GP is always there to talk with should you not start to feel any better.

Look after yourself, you can get through today!

Written by Ruth Taylor, Counsellor at Professional Help