5 ways to beat the blues

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 15 Jan, 2022

Blue Monday, as it's known, falls on the third Monday of every January. This day is considered to be the most depressing day of the year.

A combination of darker days and cold weather, being back at work, Christmas bills landing and new year's resolutions starting to waiver, all come to a head to make many of us feel pretty blue. Cheerful stuff eh?

But there's hope! It's not all doom and gloom, there are things we can do to lift our spirits this January. Focus on these 5 areas and just remember to S.M.I.L.E.

Sleep well

Sleep well

We've all heard the phrase 'they must have got out of the wrong side of the bed' – directed at someone in a bad mood. This highlights the fact we intuitively know our sleep and mood state are closely linked! There is much research supporting the link between sleep and mental health. It's also believed that brain activity occurring when we sleep is linked to our emotional health, so any disruptions to sleep patterns can significantly impact on this.

To help support your mental and emotional health this January, make sure you prioritise getting good sleep. Our top tips for sleep quality are:

  1. Aim for 7-9 hours each night.
  2. Keep a routine bedtime and wake time even at weekends.
  3. Avoid screens in the hour before bed to reduce overstimulation.
  4. Develop a suitable bedtime routine – bath, meditation, read, sleep for example.
  5. Use a lavender room or pillow spray to help with relaxation.
Move more

Move more

Exercise directly impacts our mental state and can provide an immediate boost in some cases. There is an abundance of research supporting the fact that physical activity can improve our mood, and it has even been suggested as part of the treatment of depression for some individuals.

You may well have heard people describe a 'runners high' which is a euphoric like feeling some runners experience from a surge of endorphins in their body – essentially feel good chemicals! So exercise really can give us a much needed boost when we need it most.

If you're feeling a little sluggish or down, try doing some form of physical activity to boost your mood. Here are our favourite options to really get the endorphins going:

  1. Put on your favourite music and dance like nobody is watching.
  2. Wrap up warm and meet a friend for a walk around a park. Exercise and social interaction – win, win.
  3. Hula hooping or skipping – it's like being a kid again!
  4. Interactive video games – have fun with the family while moving your body.
  5. Go on a bike ride – it doesn't have to be superfast, just leisurely cycling around a park with a friend can be just the ticket.
Sleep

Indulge in yourself

There is much more talk around self-care nowadays as we're increasingly aware of our need to check in with ourselves. Taking some time to do something just for you can do wonders for your mood, and should be something we all do more often. Slow down and take some 'me time' during this tough month.

Here are some of my favourite activities to try:

  1. Watch your favourite feel-good movie.
  2. Take a long bath and pamper yourself.
  3. Take 10 minutes a day to just sit with a warm drink and your thoughts – and check in with how you're feeling.
  4. Avoid scrolling through social media for hours at a time. The version of reality people choose to share is not always helpful for our mental state.
  5. Book yourself in for some pampering – a massage, manicure, facial, hair cut – whatever brings you joy and relaxation.
Level with yourself

Level with yourself

Consider revisiting your new year's resolution(s) now that we're well into the new year and reality has kicked in. At the end of the year when we're all partied out after Christmas and New Year's Eve, we feel so ready to make a change that we set unrealistic expectations of ourselves. Take this time to think again about what you want out of the next week, month, 6 months, year, and set yourself realistic goals that really will fit in with your day-to-day – now that you're back to reality.

Remember when it comes to goal setting, it's all about being S.M.A.R.T:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time based

For more on goal setting read our blog.

Eat right

Eat right

There are certain foods which are believed to help boost our mood due to the nutrients they contain. As well as this, ensuring we eat regular meals and base our food around protein and high-fibre carbohydrate choices will help to keep blood sugar levels stable. Peaks and troughs in blood sugar has been shown to affect energy and mood.

Here are the top 7 'happy' foods to include in your diet:

  1. Brazil nuts
  2. Eggs
  3. Oats
  4. Salmon
  5. Spinach
  6. Turkey
  7. Quinoa

Find out why each one is special in our blog.

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.