The fairy lights, sparkles and good cheer of the festive season, a light in the midst of winter, already seem a distant memory. January is in full-swing, lots of us will have made New Year resolutions and broken them, making us feel like we’ve already failed. It’s cold, dark, we may have overspent at Christmas and it’s a long time to spring. This month also sees ‘Blue Monday’,supposedly the most depressing day of the year. Meh.
A survey by the Co-op found that 26% of British people claim that this month is when they feel the most isolated.
It could feel like this but it doesn’t have to.
‘Blue Monday’ isn’t fact. Just as January being the most depressing month of the year and winter being long and gloomy isn’t either. You might feel great, and good for you if you do!
It can be normal to feel a little lower after the social whirl and excitement of the festive season so take time during the slower winter months that follow to focus on you and what makes you happy and gives you a lift.
I used to hate January. Absolutely hated it and felt fed-up as soon as New Year was over. But then a friend explained how she loves the quieter time that this time of year brings. A chance to reflect on the past year: what worked well for you and what didn’t; what you would like to do differently; what you feel you missed out on and what you did too much of. A chance to plan. So I changed my mindset and boy, has it changed my perception of winter!
The post-Christmas lull can be so lovely. It’s quieter, you can please yourself a little more and give yourself more ‘head space’.
I use it to take the feelings of Christmas into New Year – goodwill to all, kindness, generosity of time and closer personal relationships – and to enjoy the gifts that it brought (usually cosy Pjs, books, scented candles, new herbal teas and gin!)
New Year Resolutions really don’t need to form part of it, just thought and planning of what would suit you and help you to feel good – fresh air and a walk every day rather than structured exercise or a gym membership, a leisure activity that you will enjoy and will give you a boost rather than make you feel stressed about having to fit something else in to a full diary and making time for the people whom you truly value. None of this “I must do this, I should do that” but works for YOU to help you to feel how you would like to feel.
If you struggle with this time of year, these are our top tips to help you thrive rather than just survive:
- Recent studies suggest a link between creativity and depression. Those of us who are more creative types do have a tendency to feel depressed more, but they also have the ability to harness their depression into something creative. So, if you’re feeling low, getting out of your head and doing something creative to lift your spirits could help, whether that be putting pen to paper, painting, playing music, using your hands to make something or participating in a craft activity.
- Focus on maintaining human connection to those people in your world to stop a sense of isolation creeping in. Our friendships and relationships are so important. So make time to call or text a friend. Reach out. You’re not only helping yourself but others too.
- Exercising when you don’t even feel like getting out of bed might sound like your idea of hell, but medical experts agree that physical activity can help lift your mood. Being outside while doing it is even better!
- Create your own special or cosy and personal space that you try to have time in at least once a week: be it a wintry walk in your favourite place; lighting candles, curling up under a blanket with a good book and a glass of wine or hot chocolate; getting creative with painting or drawing or something ‘crafty’ or enjoying a type of exercise that makes you feel amazing.
- Doing an enjoyable activity releases endorphins into your bloodstream which are your ‘happy hormones’ and leave you feeling uplifted and re-energised.
- Scrap the diet. We don’t believe in the ‘D’ word. It’s not about depriving yourself but eating a healthy, balanced diet where you are eating plenty – just plenty of the right foods. I love quick and easy recipes for warming and nourishing foods during winter – soups, stews, loads of root vegetables, with a few treats thrown in too.
- Prioritise yourself. It might sound selfish but it isn’t. How can you give to others and look after them when you’re not looking after yourself? You can’t pour from an empty cup. What would you like to feel better about? What elements of your wellbeing would you like to improve upon? Spend time thinking about that and planning for it. Would you like to sleep better, get rid of those physical niggles, improve your digestive health, increase your energy levels or manage your stress levels in a more manageable way? Ask for help if you need it – we’re always here if you need a sounding board or non-judgemental advice.
You may feel like hibernating and that’s okay. But if everybody else does and you don’t then take yourself out then start a new class, learn a new skill, organise a meet-up with friends. It doesn’t have to be expensive – a Sunday morning walk – or even a Saturday night one when you end up in a lovely little pub or sharing a flask of tea or hot chocolate in your car.
But whatever you do, make the most of this wonderful winter period.