For the last 15 years the third Monday in January has become known as “Blue Monday” and it’s said to be the most depressing day of the year.
But is this actually true?
The short answer is – no.
According to various online sources, Blue Monday was originally launched in the January of 2005 as part of a PR campaign to sell holidays. Since then it has become an annual hashtag on social media, and it is widely used in marketing campaigns across a variety of different industries.
However, all that being said, it is true that there can be seasonal variations in our mental health. For many of us December can be a time where our general health takes a bit of a hit from eating too much, drinking too much, getting less sleep and perhaps running up a few debts. The aftermath of all of this can impact our mental health in January. Also, many of the things we know to be good for our overall wellbeing, such as spending time outside and exercising, can feel more difficult in the deep, dark months of winter. And of course, some people may experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder at this time of year.
So, what can we do to look after our mental wellbeing in January?
THE THREE PRINCIPLES OF POSITIVITY
When applied, the Three Principles of Positivity help us to generate the happy hormones our brain and body needs to keep us feeling positive and our stress buckets empty.
Let’s take a look at each of these principles.
1. Positive THOUGHT
Did you know that the average person has around 100,000 thoughts every single day? That’s a lot of thoughts and many of these thoughts can be negative and therefore unhelpful, because our thoughts influence our feelings which influence our actions. The more we are intentional about having positive thoughts, the more we are able to influence how positive we feel and subsequently how positively we behave.
It’s never the events in our lives that cause us stress or anxiety, it’s the way we think about them.
2. Positive ACTION
Positive action is about doing things that will lead to positive outcomes. When we do this, we generate Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happier. Positive actions also generate Dopamine, which is the ‘reward’ hormone which also influences how good we feel. Positive actions don’t necessarily need to be big actions. Small actions can make a positive difference too and when added to other small actions can lead to big outcomes.
3. Positive INTERACTION
Maintaining positive connections and relationships is beneficial to our mental health because it helps to maintain healthy levels of the ‘love’ hormone Oxytocin making us feel supported and cared for. As a result, this can increase our confidence and when life starts to feel challenging and difficult to cope with, this can make a big difference.
OUR TOP TIPS FOR BEATING THE JANUARY BLUES
1. Delete Negative Thoughts
Become aware of any negative and unhelpful thoughts and once you have identified one, press the delete key!
You can do this by literally pressing the delete key on that keyboard in your mind.
If the same thought reappears later, press the delete key again.
The more you use the delete key the longer the gap between your negative thoughts and you’ll need to use less focus and effort to delete them.
2. Delay Negative Thoughts
Not all negative thoughts are unhelpful, and some may need further thought or action, so we don’t want to delete them all.
Even though these thoughts may be helpful, they often come from our primitive brain and present us with the worst-case scenario. It is much more useful if we are able to give these thoughts further attention when we are able to access our intellectual brain, to make a proper assessment of the situation and come up with a good solution.
When a thought that requires further thought or action comes into your mind at an inappropriate time, you can literally imagine filing that thought in a folder, tray or cabinet knowing that you will deal with it later (much as you might do at work!).
3. Move More
We all know that exercise is good for us, but we don’t always know or appreciate why. Even just 20 minutes of gentle exercise releases Dopamine, Serotonin and Endorphins into the brain, along with another chemical called BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which holds the serotonin in our brain for longer giving us a double whammy of positivity.
Anything that involves moving our body and raising our heart rate is exercise. Walking and cycling to work can be a great start when trying to add some exercise into your day.
4. Eat Well
Eating a diet that gives our body the nutrition it needs to function at its optimum is a form of positive action. It has a positive effect on both mental and physical health, making us more resistant to illness and feel more energetic and happier.
Take a look at our blog post: Foods to Induce Happy Hormones and Help Combat Stress to find out more.
5. Sleep Well
Challenges with sleeping can impact even the most mentally healthy of us, making us irritable and increasing the frequency of negative thoughts. Quality sleep on the other hand helps us to maintain adequate levels of Serotonin.
Although some people can manage on less sleep than others, most people need around 7-8 hours’ sleep a night.
To enhance your ability to get a good night’s sleep, try the following:
- Set a routine where you go to bed and get up at the same time every day
- Use your bedroom for sleep and sleep only and avoid watching TV
- Ensure the bedroom is cool and dark
- Complete tasks at least an hour before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol or rich foods before bedtime
- If you find yourself unable to fall asleep after half an hour or so, get up and do something quiet, like reading a book, and go back to bed when you feel tired.
6. Be Kind
Whilst altruism might feel counter-intuitive, focusing our energy on helping others when we ourselves are feeling in deficit of time or energy, it actually has a positive effect on our mental wellbeing and even our physical health too.
When we help others, positive physiological changes associated with happiness occur in the brain and these changes are often followed by longer periods of calm.
Acts of kindness at work might include:
- Making a cup of tea for your colleagues
- Lending your ear to a colleague who is having a bad day
- Saying good morning to the team that you don’t usually see
- Giving praise to your colleague for something they’ve done well
7. Socialise Intentionally
We can take it for granted that our friends and our family are always there and available to meet up whenever we want. However, because we know this, we can sometimes fail to intentionally make contact and before we know it, weeks and/or months have gone by and we’ve not spent any time with them.
In order to have positive interaction, we often need to take positive action first: we need to pick up the phone, send the email or text message and make a plan to connect.
Hugs and gestures of affection between us and those we care about raises our Oxytocin levels, which lowers stress and anger and increases social comfort and enhances social skills. This is especially important for driving the emotional bond between spouses and between parent and offspring, a feeling which helps ensure continuity of the species, but it’s just as important for driving positive interaction between friends and colleagues.
A gesture of affection doesn’t just refer to hugs, it could also be a high five, or a handshake, or a pat on the back or shoulder. And it doesn’t just apply to humans either, the act of stroking and cuddling your pet has the same effect!
So, if you are feeling blue this January, or this Blue Monday, we hope that you find our tips helpful.
And the good thing is, they apply all year round too!
Other articles you might be interested in: