We are currently entering the most difficult time of the year for many of us. The cold, grey weather, short days and lack of money after the Christmas splurge make us feel like we have nothing to look forward to. We are back at work, and probably don't have any annual leave left for a while. Things are looking pretty bleak.
This Monday the 18th, the third Monday in January, has been named 'Blue Monday', due to it apparently being the most depressing day of the year. The science behind this is pretty sketchy, ( it was actually originally created as an advertising slogan for Sky Travel to help sell winter Sun holidays), but no matter if we believe that this particular day is worse than the rest, I think we can all agree that January and February are pretty dismal months for a lot of us.
We underestimate the impact that the time of year has on our mental health, and in a typically British way think that we should be able to power through no matter what. So if you're feeling pretty low at this time of year here are some things we can say to ourselves to combat that mental slump and improve our mood and motivation.
1) 'We are animals!'
Like most animals, we tend to hibernate in our coldest months. Not only does this mean that we are less active, but it makes us isolate ourselves. There are less people on the streets, no one stops for a chat, or even to say hello, our heads are down, our hoods are up, and we are heading for the warmth of our living rooms. As humans we seem to forget that we are mammals that instinctively react in the same way to other mammals, so it is only natural that in the winter we try to conserve our energy by moving less, doing less, and being less social.
2) 'Stop feeling guilty'
It's easy to get annoyed with ourselves at this time of year- 'Why haven't I kept to my new year's resolutions?', 'Why am I laying in instead of getting on with all the important things I have to do?', 'Why isn't my life as exciting as it used to be?' I bet if you look back, you were saying exactly the same thing to yourself a year ago. Here's a secret, 'It's okay to have a down month!' Naturally the weather, and the light make us feel less motivated, and accepting that and being kinder to ourselves might actually be a better tactic than beating yourself up about it (which lets face it never really helps!)
3) 'This is all just temporary'
As soon as that spring sun starts to peak through again you will begin to see smiles back on people's faces. People will start saying hello to each other in the street, and skipping to the park. (Okay maybe not the last bit.) It is easy to forget when you are the midst of something that there are good times to come. It is only 2 months until Easter and springtime begins, and the bleak midwinter becomes a distant memory.
4) 'Look after yourself!'
When we begin to feel low we often neglect to look after ourselves. I don't necessarily mean the extremes of not washing or sleeping, but other things that we forget to do that make a huge impact to our wellbeing. Eating healthily, exercising, and making sure we are doing things we enjoy all make a difference. A good example is the post Christmas, New Years resolution diet. As honorable as it may be, it could be making us feel a lot worse. It's cold, we already feeling miserable, and on top of that we're forcing ourselves to eat salads and carrots sticks. Stop! You can still be healthy and lose weight without torturing yourself. Make sure you're eating foods that you enjoy and give you energy- potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, white meat. And get some exercise, even if it's the last thing you want to do, trust me it does help! Go to the gym, a swim, or a long walk (soak up that vitamin D), you will start getting up easier in the morning and generally having a more positive outlook on life- I promise!
5) 'Treat yourself!'
Part of the reason we get so down at this time of year is because we feel we have nothing to look forward to, so change that! It doesn't have to be expensive like a holiday. How about planning a day trip, or booking tickets to the cinema, or even a walk with a nice coffee in a local park, as long as it's something that you enjoy. Don't get lost in that work-sleep cycle, make sure you have got things to look forward to at least once a fortnight.
6) 'You're not alone'
Every friend I have spoken to recently has told me that they have been feeling down, bored or unmotivated. The truth is, a lot of us are feeling this way, we just aren't necessarily talking about it!
January is the month when we report feeling the most lonely. We tend to hibernate in the coldest months, going straight home to our living rooms, which often means that we isolate ourselves. Even if you're completely broke, you can still see your friends - go for a walk together, go around to someone's house and watch a film. Just having company can often make us feel a whole lot better.
*These tips are intended to help maintain your mental health in the winter months. If you feel that your mental health has slipped to a point that you can't cope then please seek professional help by visiting your GP or finding more information on www.mind.org.uk