As if Mondays didn't always get a bad press for being the most miserable day of the week, now apparently we need to be alert for the fact that today is Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year. Although not actually proven by science, anecdotally it would seem that the perfect storm of bad weather, post-Christmas family angst, a flurry of credit card statements, and the dawning realisation that we're wobbling on our New Year's resolutions, can make even the most glass-half-full person feel bleak.
To some extent, the idea of one day of the year being worse than any other can be dismissed as nothing more than a marketing gimmick. Yet at the same time, as a psychotherapist I see no harm in developing the habit of paying attention to your mood, becoming more self-aware and doing things to lift the spirits.
So, here are my top three tips for keeping the winter blues at bay:
When it's cold and rainy, going outside may seem like the last thing you want to do. But exercise really helps lift mood. This is because it releases mood-boosting endorphins – even a brisk walk round the office block - so brave it! Keep repeating, 'in fifteen minutes this will be over', then 'in fourteen minutes…' and so on. And before you know it, you'll have done fifteen minutes exercise, which will not only make you feel good physically but will also give you a sense of achievement.
Humans are relational creatures. We love the company of others. So even if you've given up alcohol for January or would prefer to hibernate on the sofa watching Sherlock on repeat, get out and meet your mates. Play cards, charades or even walk round the block together. Laughter too has the capacity to beat the blues, so get a group together tonight and go and see some stand-up comedy. Or make new 'friends' by buying the kind of bird-feeder which sticks to your window. You won't even need a garden and you'll be connecting to the wider world by giving Mother Nature a helping hand.
Exclusion diets have the tendency to make us miserable. So re-frame your eating habits so that it doesn't seem like you're cutting things out. Rather, stuff yourself with nutrient-rich foods like citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables which are also really cheap at this time of year. And increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods like garlic and ginger, which will help boost your immune system.
And remember, if your mood hasn't lifted in four weeks, don't be afraid to seek help. Chat to your GP and keep a record of your mood, which will help you feel more in control. You may be suffering from depression. Or it could be seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which, though not a clinical term, is widely recognized in the medical community as something which is thought to affect one in eight people in the UK.