So this week, research by an actual psychologist and life coach called Dr Cliff Arnall from more than a decade ago shows that we have hit the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday – thanks for that Cliff! It’s the 3rd Monday in January, money is getting tight and there’s no sign of getting paid until the end of next week. The Christmas holidays are a mere memory. We are all trying to get back to a routine and be good. Our New Year resolutions may start to fade and become impossible. That new hope we had now feels smothered by the reality that, this year could probably be just the same as the last one, and that was pretty crap!
Well, to be honest I was having a pretty hopeful January until I read all the negative comments about Blue Monday, and now it’s almost like the residual energy has seeped in and got me feeling pretty low, stressed, and has made me think – is being positive and having a bright outlook on life just a way of burying your head in the sand to the reality that is really happening around you? Do we become uber-delusional in January and start to promise ourselves things that we know we can’t sustain? The glass half empty way of thinking.
Or do we buy in to the way of thinking that, ‘You are your thoughts?’ The more positive and empowering we are, the more our train of thought will be positive and the knock on effect will be better outcomes, less stress and an inner calm. The glass is half full. Showing ourselves some love, trying to break free from the negative or toxic circles that we have found ourselves slumped in so many times before can’t be anything but good can it? Making slight improvements to how we lead our lives, or our mental health and our physical wellbeing, will only end up with good results, right?
Not once in my life have I told myself I’m going to make more of an effort to look after myself, whether it be going to counselling to help understand my train of thoughts better, or join a gym class to improve my fitness, and not felt a genuine positive effect from it. And I know now, the more I worry and stress the more down and depressed I get, so it’s kinda simple isn’t it? Just be happy all day, every day!
If only it was that simple. Well now I’m asking myself, why can’t it be that simple? Having a brighter outlook on life doesn’t mean we’re not addressing any issues that we might have, it just means we’re tackling them in a different way.
So to kick the blues January might have sent you, I wanted to compile a list that can help pull you out of that dirty ditch of misery and prop you up like a cuppa tea and duvet on the sofa can, true Brit style.
Beat Your Fears
This first one for me is the most important. We can carry so much baggage around with us that we have accumulated over the years. By no means is it intentional but it becomes a massive weight that drags you down until you feel suffocated and can’t carry on. I went through just this a few years back. In my head I was either stuck in my past or constantly worrying about the future. I couldn’t sleep, eating was a challenge, remembering anything or planning a day was impossible. I was exhausted and running on empty all day, every day. I sought help through counselling who recommended CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy. But there are ways to help yourself that can be done at home:
- Take time to clear your thoughts. Meditation or Mindfulness are great ways or calming your thoughts. Practising how to stay in that stillness for even 10 seconds can prove difficult but it is a great way of centering yourself and is very relaxing.
- Make specific plans. Write them down. Don’t make too many at once as you may become overwhelmed if there’s too much going on at the same time. Having a plan to stick to gives you focus and something to aim for.
- Practice accepting uncertainty – This is how CBT works. You cannot change the past, you cannot see in to the future but you can live in the now. Being able to accept that there will be variables and uncertainty in life but it’s how you react to making things work for you that’s important.
- Exposure – exposing yourself to the fears you have repeatedly until you feel less anxious about it. In unfamiliar settings our brain tells us there is a threat so we interpret that as fear. Making our fears boring will help them become insignificant and easier to conquer.
It’s a cliche, but we all know it works. And you don’t need to be doing anything drastic, just little steps implicated here and there will go a long way. Some of you reading this might have taken up Dry January, started the gym or stopped smoking? I did the latter. And to be totally honest I’ve had some bloody amazing days and some unbearable ones but there is nothing negative about the choice I’ve made to quit smoking. I actually did dry Jan last year and I underestimated how tough it was going to be. But I did it and felt a lot clearer in my train of thought and also lost a few pounds too. The same with not smoking, I can now train harder at the gym and I’ve saved myself a few quid too. My skin is starting to look healthier and my lungs are on their way to repairing, slowly but surely.
But think about what can be done to help you get healthy, it doesn’t have to be as drastic as not drinking or smoking. Maybe decide that those trips in the car that can really be done by foot are done so. Can you get up 20 minutes early and use YouTube to do a workout 2, 3 or 4 days a week? Can you increase your heart rate by going up and down the stairs 20 times? There are so many little things that you can do, even in the comfort of your own home that cost nothing but a bit of dedication.
It’s a proven fact that daylight elevates our mood. Ok, so there are lots of January days that are gloomy, so lets make the most of those brisk, sunny days where we can get out and explore the beautiful surroundings we have. Moderate sunlight exposure boosts serotonin levels in the body, this is often know as the ‘happiness hormone’ which makes us calm and alert. Sunlight can also decrease the risk of depression with those affected by SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Let’s get in to a bit of science:
- The brighter your daylight exposure, the more melatonin you produce at night.
- Melatonin is a type of hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain during darkness at night. Also known as the sleep hormone, melatonin has a range of effects on the brain, from improving sleep to synchronizing your biological clocks, and lowering stress reactivity.
- The amount of daylight exposure you get is crucial in maintaining a normal circadian rhythm. Distorted circadian rhythms can induce symptoms of both depression and bipolar disorder, depending on the pattern of disruption.
- It promotes bone growth. Vitamin D is a hormone that promotes calcium absorption and is essential for bone growth and formation. Vitamin D found in our body needs activation. The sun helps to convert inactive Vitamin D levels to active. Getting anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands, and face twice or thrice a week is enough to reap the vitamin D-boosting benefits of the sun.
- It helps strengthen the immune system.
- It lowers blood pressure.
You can read more on this study by following this link. But being outdoors, raising our heart rate, having the fresh air on our skin really can blow away the cobwebs and leave us with a much clearer hear space.
Plan a night in with friends
Dry January folk look away now!
We all feel the pinch by the time late January come along, so planning a big night out may feel too costly. But with Christmas not that far behind us, there must be booze lying about that wasn’t touched… or not? Well, this one applies to those who’s Xmas stash hasn’t been annihilated yet.
Get the boom box out, make some nibbles, get your girl friends or mates round and make sure everyone brings a bottle. You can have a make-shift cocktail party whilst all sharing your stories of how great or not January has actually been. If leaving the kids isn’t an option, get them involved too. Set up a fun game on the computer or cool movie that they can watch. Don’t ever forget that a problem shared is a problem halved and I’m sure sharing over a few cheeky Vimto’s will make you feel a little bit better. Party season may be over but you can still hangout and chat crap with your friends to ease those new year blues.
Have a clear out and tidy up those loose ends
Fengshui your life! Declutter your room or home and let that positive energy flow throughout the house. Also, get your paper work in order. There’s no point stuffing your letters in that same draw or box, like you did last year and putting that important work back for another month. Get a file or folder or planner, name them, sort your bills, go through your statements, know when your payments are coming out and how much you need to cover everything. I know this can be a daunting task for some, but I promise you’ll feel so much better knowing where you stand by the end of it all. Before writing this blog I started to get my paperwork in order and now I feel like I’ve achieved a lot in one day. Paper work and a blog all while looking after 3 poorly kids – go me.
I hope after reading this blog you’ll feel inspired to do at least one thing on the list. Or if you have any tips you feel you’d like to share with all the other G&H readers then please feel free to leave a message 🙂
Feed your soul with goodness, you’ll never go wrong with that.