Blue Monday typically takes place on the third Monday in January and it’s known as the saddest day of the year. It’s a time when people can feel their emotions dipping: the festive season is over; many have long, dark winter nights to contend with; some are struggling with debt; and others are struggling to stick to their New Year’s resolutions.
Many argue that Blue Monday doesn’t really exist, though — and they’re probably right. In fact, the date was calculated in 2004 by a psychologist for a travel company that wanted to sell more holidays during winter.
Blue Monday or not, there’s no denying that this year is a little harder than normal. The pandemic is still a reality, with many around the world going in and out of lockdowns. If you’re feeling low or sad, here are some simple strategies you can use to cope and bounce back.
Invest in a light box
Using a light box on a regular basis can help, especially if you’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as ‘winter depression’. Symptoms include feeling low and lethargic, needing more sleep than usual and finding it hard to get out of bed. The effects of using a light box first thing in the morning can be immediate and may boost low mood after only 20 minutes of use.
Meditation and exercise
We know that meditation helps our mental health and that exercising is good for our bodies. But did you know that when you put meditation and exercise together, their effects can be dramatic? Rutgers University found that 30 minutes of each, twice a week, can reduce levels of depression by almost 40 per cent. They saw these results in participants after only two months.
So, next time you’re feeling those winter blues, put on a guided meditation video, follow an aerobics routine and you’re likely to shake off some of that gloominess.
Get into the kitchen
Cooking is good for so many reasons, not only because you’re making something that fills you up. It’s also because trying something new, such as a recipe, often changes how you feel about yourself. Success with a dish may boost your self-esteem — cooking means you’re active, following through with your intentions, and this can be a gateway to positive feelings.
It can also give you a sense of achievement and allows you to tap into your creative side — you’re experimenting with recipes, ingredients, tastes, and visual presentations. And if you don’t consider yourself a good cook, fear not — as Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille chef Auguste Gusteau says, “Anyone can cook.”
Immerse yourself in nature
When you take a moment to turn off your laptop, put away your work and step into nature, your mind gets a chance to relax and ‘breathe’. Immersing ourselves in the great outdoors helps us feel more grounded. When the stresses of the day get to be too much, being outside can be restorative and it may even help lower anxiety and depression.
Postpone your worries
Whether we’re plagued by worries about the pandemic or concerned about our job, focusing on our anxieties can sour our disposition. An effective strategy for this is to wait to worry. Instead of giving into anxious thoughts as soon as they arise, hold off on worrying until a designated period later in the day. Pick a time — for example, 3.30pm — when you can give yourself free rein to think about whatever is bothering you. Only do this for a limited period of time — say, 15 minutes. When we hold off on worrying until our designated ‘worry period’, we often notice that we’re less concerned about the anxieties we had earlier on.
The food we eat not only affects us physically, but mentally, too. Studies show that eating processed or unhealthy food can have a negative influence on our emotions. This is why we should strive to eat as healthily as possible — load up on vegetables, fruit, and try to cook the meals yourself. Often, simple meals with fresh ingredients are exactly what our bodies need, especially during times of stress. As the Romans used to say, “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”
Read a book the old-fashioned way
Technology is great and has shaped our lives for the better in so many ways, but sometimes we need a break from screens, buttons and menus. This can mean ditching the eReader and picking up an actual book. Remember when you were a child, how satisfying it was to read a book? Seeing how many pages you had read, feeling the smoothness of those pages and smelling the paper. Allow your senses to feel that same delight and indulge in this simple pleasure.
Don’t ruminate on worst-case scenarios
Right now, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, hopeless and down. However, sometimes people start ruminating so much about what might happen that they end up replaying worst-case scenarios — and this only makes you feel worse.
To feel better, we should avoid this. Don’t take the dreaded scenario you’re imagining to the max — instead, just let it go. Even though we often think our fearful thoughts will turn out to be true, they are simply ‘mental events’. They are as ephemeral as the clouds on a windy day.
Be kind to yourself
On those days when you’re finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, instead of blaming yourself, be kind to yourself. When you approach other people with kindness, they respond positively. When you treat other people harshly and criticise them, they pull away. The same thing can happen with ourselves. When we exhibit self-compassion and let go of our internal bully, we often notice that we’re able to get going again — we find it easier to bounce back.
Tough times can lead to growth
This last strategy is effective because knowledge is power. When we go through tough times — a pandemic, an illness, a car accident — we struggle on an emotional level, but at the same time, growth can take place. Post-traumatic growth can help you become stronger and acquire a more profound perspective on life.
There’s no denying that tough times can feel impossible to get through, but it’s important to hold on and not give up hope. In times like these, think of this beautiful quote: “When the world says, ‘Give up,’ hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.”
From British Vogue