THE weather is grim, the nights are long and the festive buzz is well and truly over. January is a blue month for many, to say the least – but, when money is tight and the weather is getting us down, what can we do to boost our morale just a little?
We asked wellbeing experts for their best tips to make us feel a little brighter…
1. Start a new hobby
“Hobbies offer a slice of work-free and responsibility-free time in our schedules, perfect if you’re struggling with the back-to-work January blues,” says Gosia Bowling, national lead for mental health at Nuffield Health (nuffieldhealth.com).
“In a recent survey on stress and wellbeing, 80% of participants found spending time on a hobby highly effective in managing stress. Further research suggests people with some hobbies are less likely to suffer from low mood and depression,” Bowling adds.
“This is especially needed for those who feel overwhelmed by their work and ever-growing to-do lists, to recharge their batteries by doing an activity which sparks joy.”
2. Stretch like an animal
A good stretch may sound simple but it could work wonders.
“The multi-million-pound yoga industry is built around it, and animals understand this better than humans do.
“To wake yourself up after having had a good sleep or sitting down for a long time, we get ready for movement and work by automatically stretching our body,” says Jan P. de Jonge, a psychologist with Feel Good Contacts’ (feelgoodcontacts.com).
“It’s what’s called ‘natural pandiculation’, yawning, stretching your arms, arching your back, making yourself as stretched out as possible after first tensing your muscles.
“Try to become more aware of your own body by contracting your muscles, stretching out slowly and then releasing.”
3. Create healthy boundaries
Life coach Becky Hall, author of The Art of Enough, suggests trying to “fall in love with limits” – in other words, set some boundaries.
“Limits often get a bad rap, but instead of thinking of them as restrictive, re-frame them as containers.
“When we are able to set boundaries and keep them, we free ourselves up to live with balance – spending time on all the things that matter, not just the most demanding things,” she explains.
4. Steer clear of the comparison trap
“Focus on thriving, not striving,” says Hall. “Notice when you are pulled towards something because you are comparing yourself with others, or feel you lack something – striving for the next thing.
“Instead, what does it take for you to flourish? What really nurtures the whole of you? Give time to what feels like enough for you, not what you feel you should be doing. It will set you free to be yourself.”
5. Have a healthy relationship with the news
De Jonge says it’s a good ideal to “limit stressors” – and a big one might be constantly tuning into the news.
“Whether you’re doom-scrolling or glued to the anxiety-inducing 24-hour news channels, it’s important you consume news in a healthy way,” says De Jonge. “Try to find a balance between being informed and not being overwhelmed. Do this by limiting news consumption to set times during the day and preferably not when you should be relaxing.”
6. Limit screen time
We all know we are addicted to our phones, yet rarely do anything about it. Just because it is cold and dreary, sitting and scrolling all day long is probably not the answer.
“Our work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred, so try to limit your screen time when you’re not working. We all know how bad it can be for our health. Also, stress and sleep don’t mix, so it’s important to use the time before you go to bed to de-stress,” says De Jonge.
“Reduce your exposure to screens in the hours leading to bedtime. The blue light emitted from screens disrupts your sleep-wake cycle and can lead to wakefulness and lower quality sleep.”