It’s certainly not the most wonderful time of the year… Many people experience ‘January Blues’ – mild to moderate feelings of disappointment, sadness, irritability and lethargy – once Christmas and New Years are over.
The days are dark, nobody has any money and people are struggling with the slump after the Christmas high. Many are feeling unhealthy after eating or drinking too much over the festive period and feel like their indulgent habits need to be stopped. A combination of all of this and January does indeed seem like a dark pit of which there is no way out of. It’s the winter blues that make my spells at home seem more rutty than they should.
While I’m sure most of us would rather be on a tropical beach with fourteen hours’ sunlight a day, despite it being cold, dark and slightly miserable there’s lots of little things that can be done at home in January to alleviate the symptoms.
More intense January Blues might be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This affects one in fifteen people in the UK between the months of September and April every year. Common signs of SAD include feeling down and depressed, lethargic, having sleep problems and experiencing heightened anxiety. These things might help SAD, but for more extreme cases medical help is recommended.
This is my top beating-the-blues tactic, and it’s been scientifically proven to help as it releases endorphins that make you happy. Start by going for a 20 minute run, and see what difference it makes. Run around your town or city, drive to the beach and run along there, or run through a massive field. Try and find a scenic route that reminds you what a lovely country we live in. I guarantee that your mood will be completely lifted. If you really get into running, you could even sign up for a race or competition – I find doing this gives me something to really work towards and whenever I run, I feel one step closer to that goal. This year, I’m doing the Brighton Half Marathon at the end of February and Battle of Lansdown in Bath in March. Training for them is not only a great workout, but clears my mind and is always a mood booster.
Another favourite, yoga has an ability to make you feel relaxed, peaceful and happy – even on the darkest of winter nights. I find that the focus on breathing and how it enables me to get to know my own body reminds me of the importance of self-loving. Yoga classes are quite expensive if they’re not part of a gym or leisure centre membership, but there are courses available on DVD – I use ‘Total Yoga – The Flow Series’ and love it.
Not much feels as wholesome and satisfying as creating a masterpiece of a cake from scratch. Learning to bake is a great skill to have and passes an afternoon very pleasantly. And then you have sweet treats for the rest of the week! My all time favourite recipe is this gluten free banana bread by Minimalist Baker.
I absolutely love to read, and if I cosy up in bed with a good novel, I soon forget how cold and miserable the weather is. I generally read travel books although I love a good historical novel too. Some of my favourite travel books are Honeymoon through Purdah, Hunting Mr Heartbreak and anything by Bill Bryson. They make me feel like I’m being transported to far away exotic lands, even if I am still in my tiny flat in South West England.
Connect with people
Whether you give your mother a call, meet up with old friends for coffee or just strike up a conversation with the cashier at your local supermarket, try to connect with as many people as possible. Conversation is the key to combatting isolated feelings associated with the winter blues and SAD, and others will be grateful for your initiative.
Find free ways to explore your area
Of course, nobody has any money in January, but there are free ways to explore every area. If the weather is dry, layer up and find out where you can go on a walk. If it’s not, search for free museums or activities in your area – or see if you can find any mega cheap deals! Bath residents can apply for a card that gives them access to some of the museums for free (including the renowned Roman Baths), and I am sure that other cities have similar schemes.
Give something up
This might seem like you’ll be making yourself more miserable, but successfully giving something up (or failing that, cutting down) gives you a sense of accomplishment and makes you feel worthwhile. Plus, if it’s something that’s bad for you, then there will be health and/or financial benefits, too! I’ve cut out meat from my diet for a bit – something I’ve wanted to do for a while but have always felt a bit awkward about doing because I already can’t eat wheat. But really, my life isn’t all that different without it, and it’s nice to know that I’m helping the planet every time I choose a vegetarian option.
Learn something new
Take January as a great opportunity to develop and grow. I’m currently doing a TEFL course, but learning can take the form of watching a documentary, listening to podcasts or reading online magazines. I’m working my way through Crash Course, a Youtube channel offering potted explanations on various subjects including history, sociology and literature.
Clear room, clear mind is so true. Try and organise your space so you feel happy about being in it. While you’re at it, organise your papers, write stuff in your diary and maybe even get rid of the 38917 junk emails in your inbox that you have no intention of reading. Once you make a concentrated effort to declutter various parts of your life, you’ll find that your head feels fresher and calmer as well.
As you might have guessed, I’m a definitely a summer person, but winter does have its perks. Embrace the fact that it is considered perfectly acceptable to get into bed at 7pm with a tub of ice cream and watch TV, read or write. Appreciate thick jumpers and scarves and boots and how nice it is when you enter a building with the heating already turned on. Wake up on a cold Saturday morning and enjoy being able to lie in a snug cosy bed for an extra hour. Drink hot chocolate with extra whipped cream. And if it snows… well that’s a whole other game.
Winter blues are rubbish, but it’s important to remember that they don’t last forever. Already the days are getting longer and there’s only another seven weeks until March. When feeling a little Januaryish, it’s always good to remember that summer is just around the corner.