On top of that, the most depressing day of the year “officially” falls in January. Dubbed Blue Monday, the gloomy 24 hours occurs on the third Monday of the year – that’s January 16th in case you’re trying to work out what day to call in sick and hibernate under the covers until the misery passes.
The good news is that the dreaded Blue Monday probably won’t be that much bluer than the rest of the month. The term was actually founded by a PR agency and college professor and is based on a pseudo-scientific formula (involving weather, debt, motivational levels etc.) that isn’t grounded in research.
That said, January can still be rather bleak and miserable, so we’ve pulled together our top tips on how to beat the January Blues and give yourself a major mood-boost.
Laugh out loud
A good chuckle will have the same feel-good effect however it’s achieved — with friends or while watching your favorite rom-com. Laughter activates the regions in your brain that regulate emotion and suppresses the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
“The human brain is wired to respond positively to laughter and smiles” says Laughter and Wellness expert, Sebastien Gendry. “The wiring is so strong that the brain responds even when we smile at ourselves in the mirror or simulate laughing with enthusiasm.” And typing “LOL” in a text message does not count. Sorry folks.
Spend time with friends
We all know that warm, fuzzy feeling we get from spending time chatting (and laughing!) with friends, but did you know that hanging out with your pals is actually good for your health?
According to the Mayo Clinic it can enhance your levels of happiness, reduce stress, improve self-confidence and self-worth, cultivate a sense of belonging and purpose, help you cope with traumas, and encourage you to ditch unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Break a sweat
By now we should all be familiar with the fact that exercise is good for us, period. And we all kind of know that somehow the associated release of endorphins can make us feel great, right? But getting regular exercise comes with a whole host of benefits that contribute to feelings of happiness and general wellbeing.
Regular exercise (it has to be for at least 20 minutes) is credited with releasing pleasure / happiness neurotransmitter dopamine, reducing stress, allaying anxiety, re-energizing us, boosting our confidence and aiding a good night’s sleep.
Eat yourself happy
Around ninety percent of “happy hormone”, serotonin, is made in in your gut, so make sure yours is in tip-top shape. Keep your gut healthy by eating lots of fiber and keep good bacteria levels up by including prebiotics and probiotics in your diet. Probiotics include fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and miso soup, whilst you can get your prebiotic shot with foods like garlic, onions, avocado, peas and soybeans.
For a quick fix, foods high in tryptophan — such as cheese, eggs and turkey — are said to boost the production of serotonin when eaten in conjunction with carbs. Avoid junk food and alcohol which could de-stabilize mood and make anxiety worse.
Listen to music
Listening to your favorite tunes can put you in a better mood and relax you because of that delicious dopamine feeling. According to researchers at the UK’s Durham University and Finland’s University of Jyväskylä even listening to sad music can put many of us in a better mood — although it can have the opposite effects for others, so stick with an upbeat playlist to stay on the safe side. For an extra uplift, try singing along. A recent study found that singing for an hour can increase levels of immune proteins (which help fight off disease), reduce stress and improve mood.
Meditation is a popular way to balance the mind and boost the mood, and can be done within group classes or alone at home. Leading meditation teacher and founder of NY based, Centre of Cyclone Biet Simkin explains that “meditation creates pause between life and us. This pause is the ecstasy of life. When we don’t have it we are in constant threat and reaction. Meditation creates calm, peace, joy and gratitude. It is a freedom to choose how one wants to feel rather than being thrown around by any old emotion you may happen to stumble upon.”
As well as feeling good for the obvious reasons, having sex can have a positive effect on a person’s overall sense of wellbeing. Being intimate can actually support a healthy immune system, lower blood pressure, improve sleep and ease stress. “Sex can reduce stress levels by decreasing blood pressure, elevating oxytocin levels (the love hormone) and releasing brain endorphins which in turn decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels” says Dr Ambardar, MD, a psychiatrist from Hollywood.
Stay away from social media
It may be a great way to stay connected but studies show that spending hours scrolling through social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram can make us feel a bit, well, crap. A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh found that those who spend most time on social media are 2.7 times likely to be more depressed.
Across the pond, a UK survey found that one in five people admit to feeling depressed as direct result of using social media. It seems that flicking through the virtual lives of others can cause anxiety, isolation, low self-esteem and poor sleep, so tuck those phones away and make time to meet friends IRL.