Regardless of what TS Elliot might have written, January is the cruellest month for many. The air is cold, the daylight hours are short and the roads are all frozen over. After the warm idealism of Christmas, we are confronted with the stark future in which we are compelled to improve ourselves. Small wonder, then, that so many of us find it so thoroughly depressing. January’s notoriety is further cemented by its uniquely high suicide rate.
What follows is a list of the various factors which might contribute to you not having as much fun during January as you otherwise might – and ways in which you might be able to cope with them.
During January, it is mostly dark outside. While some favour the winter, most of us miss the sunshine. With the sky turning to pitch black by late afternoon, we’re all vulnerable to feeling a little glummer.
As well as lowering the levels of Vitamin D, this also makes us feel a great deal gloomier. The name for this form of depression is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or ‘SAD’: depression which follows the pattern of changing seasons. The precise causes of SAD are not fully understood, but it is thought to be linked with a lack of sunlight interfering with the body’s ability to produce melatonin and serotonin.
The effect of SADS can be quickly averted with the right attention. Try these five steps:
- Take Vitamin D to stock the body stores up with the benefits of sunlight or eat Vitamin D rich foods such as fish, orange juice, egg yolks (not too many as they are high in fat), fortified cereals.
- Eat the right foods to build up your melatonin and serotonin levels – lots of fruit and veg to keep the body free of toxins and feeling sluggish from a high fat diet.
- Exercise as much as you can and generally try to go out when it is bright – power walks and bike rides are great ways to beat the January blues and feel more invigorated daily.
- If you work in an office try and go for a stroll at lunch or just get up from your desk and take a walk around your building getting some fresh air and making you more mobile.
- Stretch in front of the television when you get in at night to ease achy and tired muscles and reduce some of the tension in the neck and shoulders.
Are you looking to lose weight?
Obesity is an enormous public health challenge for this century. It’s remarkably difficult to shift that stubborn excess flab, especially in the immediate aftermath of Christmas and New Year, when the vast majority of us will have overindulged. January usually sees us setting ourselves unrealistic weight-loss goals; when we fail to meet them, our depression is only magnified.
Losing weight is undoubtedly a worthwhile goal. But it is also a long-term goal and one which should be chipped away at. There are a huge number of fad diets out there, but the secret of losing weight is not really a secret at all – you must eat better and move more. Vegetables in and processed food out!
As well as diet, it is also important that you get enough exercise. Exercise will help to reverse your weight problems – but, perhaps more importantly, it will also release endorphins which will help you feel happier.
If you would like advice about diet and exercise, the NHS website offers some helpful tips.
A great deal of stress is caused when we simply neglect to allot sufficient time in our days for unwinding. This is understandable; life can be hectic, particularly if we are facing a series of strict deadlines. Are there any ways in which we can relax better?
A soothing bath
If you are suffering from tense muscles after a day, the result can be an increase in stress. Why not alleviate that tension with a long soak in the bath? There are a whole raft of products which would further that end – some luxury soap or bubble-bath will go a long way toward ensuring you are utterly relaxed. If you aren’t usually in the habit of taking a bath, then why not consider it a new year’s resolution? The rewards – or lack thereof – will be quickly appreciated. What’s stopping you?
Some quality sleep
There are varying opinions on how much sleep we need to get. Undoubtedly there is some variation between individuals; some people can’t survive on less than ten, some are happy with a mere four. But it isn’t just the quantity of sleep we receive that matters, but the quality. An aromatherapeutic candle will help your body to relax before you settle down.
Make sure you are looking after number 1 and use January as the great opportunity that it is for a fresh start and look at life. Set yourself goals and challenges. Mix in some easy targets so you are constantly feeling chuffed with your accomplishments. Sometimes we set ourselves so many challenges that we cannot see any quick wins so we give up on the lot. Make everything in your life bite size:
- Accomplish lots of little goals
- Eat moderate portion sizes at mealtimes
- Exercise regularly for 30 minutes whether that is a walk, bike ride, swim or a high intensity training class
- Take time outs to relax, have a bath and unwind
- Remember to congratulate on successes whether that is getting through a tough day or finishing a course
Follow those rules and you will take 2015 by storm – good luck!