Blue Monday: Tips and tricks to get you through the saddest day of the year

Whether you believe in Blue Monday or not, the January blues are very real.

Back to work after Christmas, the weather is pants, and the nights are dark. If there has ever been a time when you need wellness tips and tricks, it’s January.

We’ve put together some tips and tricks to keep well and give you a boost during the dreariness that is January.

Fuel yourself with goodness

It’s tempting to reach for familiar comfort foods this time of year. But this won't leave you feeling good in the long run.

Making healthier choices doesn’t have to mean restriction, it can just mean picking healthier alternatives. The little changes (if you stick to them) are just as powerful and important as making some big changes in your life too. Here are some ideas for simple swaps you can make:

  • Start your day off right and swap your high sugar chocolate cereal for a healthier wheat biscuit cereal
  • If you crave something sweet after you’ve eaten, try snacking on jelly, it’s a low calorie alternative that will satisfy your sweet tooth
  • If you’re a soy sauce fiend, then why not switch to a reduced salt version to reduce your sodium intake
  • If you’re bad for drinking your water? Try adding a pop of colour to your drink with chopped fruits to your water

Heard of SAD lamps?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also known as the winter blues is thought to affect around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across northern Europe.

The symptoms can include depression, sleep problems, lethargy, overeating, irritability and feeling down and unsociable. But SAD lamps are thought to help ease these symptoms.

A SAD lamp is a light therapy box which essentially mimics what the sun does. These light boxes give out very bright light at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting. It’s thought that this kind of light can cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood.

Fresh air is king

In the winter months, it’s cold, windy, and rainy. Well, it is if you’re in the UK anyway. 
But getting outside for some fresh air can be a game-changer for your mood, especially in the depths of winter.  There are plenty of benefits of getting out in the fresh air:

  • Leaves you feeling energised
  • Reduces feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Clean lungs
  • Strengthens your immune system

Get some green in your life

Getting out in nature or in any green space for even a small amount of time everyday is proven to help with both your mental and physical health.

Whether it’s a bit of light exercising, taking your pet on a walk, or even just spending time in your own garden. Benign outside can help boost your immune system, improve your mood, and even help your confidence and self esteem.

Embrace the cosy

There's something quite comforting about the cosiness of winter. So, why not embrace it?

Light some candles, get snuggled up under a blanket, and read a good book or watch your favourite film. This practice, known as 'hygge' in Danish, is all about finding comfort and pleasure in simple, soothing things. It's a simple way to find joy and contentment during the long winter nights.

Stay hydrated and rested

Never underestimate the power of basic self-care.

Staying hydrated and getting enough sleep are fundamental for maintaining good mental health. In arguably one of the worst months of the year, it’s crucial to make a conscious effort to drink plenty of water and stick to a healthy sleep routine.

Although small, these acts of self-care are mighty and have a profound impact on your mood and energy levels.

Couch to 5K

Running is one of the most effective forms of cardio you can do. It works out the whole body, gets the blood pumping, and helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

But if you aren’t very active, then taking up running can understandably feel intimidating. NHS Couch to 5K will help you gradually work up towards running 5km in just 9 weeks.

Couch to 5K is designed for those who are completely new to running. Plus, so many people who complete the program end up sticking to running.

Why not give it a go this year? You’ve got nothing to lose!

Spend time with others

Spending time with those you love is among the simple joys in life that doesn’t have to cost a penny but can improve your mood massively.

Whether it’s visiting your family, going for a walk with friends in the countryside, or having a lunchtime FaceTime with your friend who lives far away; spending time with others can boost your mood.

This connection is closely associated with positive health outcomes. Additionally, it can bring about reduced stress levels, enhanced motivation, and a heightened sense of belonging and purpose.

Don’t underestimate the power of sleep

Sleep is something we all know we need. But just how important is it? And what is the effect on our mood?

Lack of sleep is associated with an increase in negative mood (anger, frustration, irritability), and a decrease in positive mood. Here are some tips if you’re struggling to sleep:

  • Have a good sleep routine - Getting up and going to sleep at the same time every day (even on weekends) can help with your sleep
  • Mindfulness - If you’re an anxious person, getting to sleep can be difficult. Try writing down to-do lists before bed to declutter your mind and get your thoughts out on paper. Try the Headspace app for more in-depth mindfulness techniques
  • Relax and unwind with meditation - Avoid screen-time for an hour before bed. Plus, reading a novel, listening to soft music or a podcast, or sleep meditation can all help if you’re having trouble sleeping
  • Work on your diet and exercise - When your diet is on point and you’re moving your body regularly, good sleep will come naturally. The opposite is also true, the worse your diet is, the more difficult you may find it to sleep

Helpful contacts

If you think your feelings of low mood are more than just the time of year, here are some contacts that might be useful:

  • Reach Mind, a mental health charity providing advice and support, at 0300 123 3393
  • Calm stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably and the charity offers advice, help, and information to anyone who is struggling with their mental health; you can contact them at 0800 58 58 58
  • Connect with Samaritans, providing 24/7 listening services, at 116 123
  • For all things LGBT+, call Switchboard from 10am-10pm at 0300 330 0630