[updated from original article published in January 2016]
We wanted to look deeper into the ways in which we could reduce the effects of ‘Blue Monday’ (and the January Blues in general) and instead replace them with a more positive outlook. We asked qualified nutrionist and Pilates instructor Ruth Tongue to give us some tips on nourishing your mind against some of the negativity we sometimes feel this month.
Blue Monday which falls, at the beginning of the third week of January, is said to be the day when more people are likely to book a holiday, get a divorce and look for a new job! But if you can’t afford a new holiday and don’t want to make other drastic life choices, why not think about how you can boost your mood (and health) with a simple switch in perspective?
We often focus so much on improving our bodies that we neglect the one thing that could actually have the biggest impact on our health – our mind.
I have to confess – I’ve been guilty in previous years of making resolutions at the start of the year to hit the gym more, clean up my diet, cut back on the wine and make this the year I get that ‘dream body’. Yet like most people, soon into February this ‘all or nothing’ thinking has left me feeling like a bit of a failure when I’ve fallen off the wagon.
So instead, this is the year I’ve decided to shake things up a bit. I’m not cutting anything out (and it was a great feeling having a glass of red wine and a steak on the 14th of Jan followed by a piece of mum’s leftover Christmas cake!). Instead, I’ve decided to focus on my mind, and boosting my spiritual health – with the reassuring knowledge that this will more than likely have positive effects on my physical health too.
Don’t get me wrong – I still believe it’s really important to make healthy diet and exercise habits, I’m the biggest advocate of that, yet if we can shift the focus towards happiness in the mind, I strongly believe that the rest will fall into place and be much easier.
5 Tips on How to Beat Blue Monday
Capitalise on the light. Natural light helps stabilise serotonin and triggers endorphin, both mood-boosting hormones. See if you can get outside for at least ten minutes today. You could enhance the positive effects by combining your time outside with the second suggestion.
Take aerobic exercise. Any steady movement you enjoy—walking, jogging, swimming, cycling—boosts endorphins, and will leave you feeling calmer and happier. Your efforts may even mean you’ll include the next suggestion automatically.
Smile. When you smile, you release a cascade of feel-good chemicals in your brain. Your body relaxes, and blood pressure may be lowered. Smiling is contagious, too, so if you smile at others you’ll help them feel better as well.
Be grateful. Recent research has shown that when you take time to appreciate what you already have, you’ll feel more energetic and optimistic. Make a list of things you’re grateful for, and people you’re grateful you know.
Practice altruism. There’s a growing body of research that links altruistic behaviour with improved health and a greater sense of wellbeing. Offer someone a genuine compliment, and/or make a contribution to a charity.