Although it was very different for many of us in 2020, the festive season is usually known for bringing lots of joy and excitement, but now with January here and the Christmas celebrations left behind, it can often leave us feeling a little down. This paired with the cold, dark days and low bank balances that follow from the high expense of Christmas, can result in us feeling what is called the ‘January Blues’ – which may be enhanced by the current pandemic. These are typically characterised by feelings of low mood and sadness, low energy and lack of motivation. It’s therefore not surprising that even the ‘gloomiest’ day of the year falls on the third Monday in January – often referred to as ‘Blue Monday’, with the assumption that by this point, many of us are cold, eagerly waiting for payday and have often broken the resolutions we made for the New Year. We’ve put together some tips to help boost your mood through January.
The days are shorter in January, and this along with a national lockdown means we have less exposure to daylight. Being exposed to daylight is good for us as it is thought to increase the levels of serotonin in our brains. Without enough sun exposure, our serotonin levels can dip and these lower levels can lead to feelings of depression. One way to combat this is to try and get out in the daylight during January; even a short walk can make a big difference. If you are unable to get out in the daylight, it is a good idea to make your home environment as light as possible and sit near windows when you can.
Moving your body more is a great way to boost your mood as it increases your levels of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Even something as simple as walking or 10 minutes of yoga a day can help. Moving more also brings with it a great feeling of accomplishment as you are doing something good for yourself.
Modify your diet
Eating a healthy balanced diet is an important part to feeling your best. This includes eating a wide variety of foods in the correct portions to make sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. Eating foods that are high in vitamin D, like fish, is also a great way to help make up for any vitamin D deficiency from not getting enough sunlight due to the shorter days and national lockdown restrictions.
You can find more information from the NHS on how to eat well here.
Get enough sleep
The January Blues are often linked to low energy levels and if you aren’t getting enough sleep this could be contributing to you feeling lethargic. Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night – ideally, at least 7 or 8 hours. To help you establish a good sleep routine, try going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol before bed as this can disrupt your quality of sleep. To help you drift off to sleep faster, do something that makes you feel relaxed such as taking a bath. It is also a good idea to avoid looking at electronic devices before bed as this stimulates your mind and is more likely to make it harder for you to fall to sleep. There are also NHS apps designed to help you sleep that you can try.
Manage your stress levels
January can often bring with it high levels of stress. From dealing with increased workloads after time off work over the festive season, low bank balances that follow from the high expense of Christmas to missing family and friends who you may have seen over the festive holiday. Ultimately, these higher stress levels contribute to lower mental health. To help manage your stress levels, it is important not to try to do everything at once and instead set yourself small achievable targets. During the national lockdown, it is also helpful not to focus on the things you cannot change and know that you are not alone and that there is support available. For more tips on how to manage stress visit the NHS website here.
Stick to your New Year resolutions
It can be difficult to stick to your New Year resolutions – our experts have lots of useful tips to help you keep to your goals here. Sticking to your goals will help you to feel a sense of achievement and ultimately lift your mood.
Plan something to look forward to
Having something to look forward to is a great way to help improve your mood and help to lessen some of the feelings of hopelessness that January can bring. Even with restrictions in place for coronavirus, planning a holiday you’ve always wanted to go on could help give you something to look forward to when the trip is safe to go on. For things to look forward to in the near future even something as simple as a Zoom call with your friends or a virtual quiz can help lift your spirits.
Call on your support system
While January is set to bring isolation and increased loneliness for a lot of people with the lockdown restrictions, it is important to reach out to your support system if you are feeling low. A video call, phone call, or just a text message to friends and family can make a big difference to our mental health.
If you think that your symptoms are more than January Blues, and could be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), speak to your pharmacist or GP. Our pharmacists are also on hand to provide any help and advice needed.