Blue Monday is looming and whether you believe in the phenomenon or not, it’s safe to say that many of feel a bit of a slump in mood as January wears on.
The third Monday in January is said to be the day of the year when the UK is collectively feeling the lowest.
The term was initially invented as a PR stunt by travel company Sky Travel in 2005, but has since become accepted as a northern hemisphere phenomenon. It’s due to a wide array of factors, including the weather, debt level, post-Christmas blues and failure to stick with New Year’s resolutions.
But there are tricks you can use to ward off the gloom, according to psychologist Honey Langcaster-James, who’s worked with Love Island and Big Brother participants in the past.
Here, she tells Femail why setting aside 15 minutes to do absolutely nothing, booking a break and spending time in nature this weekend might lessen feelings of despair come Monday.
‘By Blue Monday, people have often given up on their New Year Resolutions which they may have had the best of intentions to keep,’ Honey said.
‘Even some of the popular January challenges such as ‘Veganuary’ or ‘Dry January’ can begin to feel restrictive by mid-January when the reality has set in as to just how inconvenient and difficult it can sometimes be to make major lifestyle changes.
‘Rather than beating yourself up about that, if you have fallen off the wagon, or thinking self-critical thoughts about how you’ve failed or been a quitter, try to be kinder to yourself,’ she went on.
‘Give yourself a pat on the back for what you did manage to achieve in the past few weeks and try to learn from where things went wrong.
To avoid failing at your goals, Honey explains focusing on the aims you can achieve is the best policy.
‘Instead of thinking that things have all gone wrong, it would be better to set more realistic goals for yourself for the coming months which are easier to adopt and integrate into your everyday life.
‘Remember that lasting change does not come from never failing, but from being willing to adjust your plans and getting back on with things when you do,’ she added.
‘So don’t be too hard on yourself if you have slipped up, just resolve to do better tomorrow and celebrate small changes that you have made,’ she said.
Green surroundings are the perfect solution to temporary low mood, Honey insisted.
‘Go outside and spend a little time somewhere green! In recent years there has been a growing interest in studying the psychological impact of our surroundings and it’s been found that spending time in green spaces really can boost your mood and can even reduce symptoms of depression.’
The Netherlands became the fifth happiest nation in the world according to the World Happiness Record in 2019, so what can we learn from such a joyful nation?
‘This January, I’ve partnered with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to look into ways that The Dutch boost their mood and stay relaxed. It was really interesting to see through KLM’s research why the Dutch and Brits think the Netherlands rate so highly on the World Happiness Report and there’s lots of tips we can apply to the January Blues.
‘Set aside a little time every day to do nothing. The Dutch call this ‘Niksen’. Taking some daily “me time” is not selfish or unproductive, it’s important to take a moment to recharge your batteries.
‘Even taking 10-15 minutes out of your day for some mindful meditation, where you focus on just ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ anything, can be a great stress reliever,’ she added.
‘Find something active that you enjoy and inject short periods of exercise into your week,’ Honey said.
‘Bike rides are ideal as they get you out and about and are active without putting too much strain on your joints, but taking a short walk or a quick jog round the blog can also help improve your mood,’ she added.
Family is one of the best mood boosters, according to Honey.
‘Spending more time with friends and family can definitely improve your mood as getting social support is a great antidote to the blues.
‘It can even boost your immune system so investing time for your relationships can be good for you in many ways. You’ll reap the mood boosting benefits,’
Booking a day away can help you escape the grim realities of grim weather and piling bills, Honey recommended.
‘By Blue Monday it can be easy to start thinking that these dark nights, the cold and the general bleakness of post-Christmas winter will never end. So in order to think more positively and optimistic about the future, try booking yourself a little break away that you can look forward to and see coming up on the horizon,’ she said.
‘Putting something in your diary that you know is going to be fun or sunny or beautiful can help you to see past the current Blue Monday gloom you might be feeling and you can start planning the fun you will soon be having rather than focusing on your current blues,’ she added.
When we’re feeling blue, talking to our friends is one of best way to get ourselves back up on the saddle.
‘Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. You may be feeling a bit down because of the winter nights and post-Christmas financial strain but your low mood could be a sign of depression if it lasts more than a few days.
And when friends won’t do it, seek professional help, Honey said.
‘So make sure you reach out and tell someone how you’re feeling. Just doing that can make you feel better often, but if your low mood persists do go and speak to your GP about it or seek some professional advice!