January. Christmas and new year have been and gone, the cold damp weather is still here. The gap between pay days seems unending and by the 15th most of us have already thrown any resolutions we had, out the window.
It’s dark, glum and bleak and it is the month we are most likely to feel low, even if we do not already suffer from low mental health.
So, what can we do about it? How can we beat the January blues, particularly when we can’t throw money at the problem?
Well, the good news is, January is the perfect time to discover how powerful simple little actions can be at beating the blues.*
Here are my top 10 tips on bio hacking, mind hacking and simply relaxing into January;
1. Embrace Hygge:
It’s still Hygge Season, that time of year to enjoy warm fires, snuggling into blankets and spending time with your-self and those you love. It’s about enjoying good company, including your own and loving the outdoors, long walks and sharing of stories. The important part is being intentional with your time and mix your own company with that of others. Read more on how to Hygge here.
2. Listen to music
Music is rumoured to be our first form of communication. Babies will dance to a beat without being taught and music can evoke deep emotions in us without a single word. There are a host of studies on how different types of music affects us emotionally and physically, some studies even show music can cause pain relief and briefly disrupt the effects of Parkinson’s disease. The effects of music on our mood and our bodies is instant and (relatively) long lasting.
Choose music that reminds you of a happy event, makes you want to dance take action.
Research now suggests that signing is not just a pleasant past time, nut can improve our phycological and social wellbeing too ( Clit et al. 2010) Theories suggest that singing and humming causes vibrations from your vocal chords to stimulate your vague nerve, a nerve that runs from your brain, down your spine and connects to many of your organs including the heart, lungs and GI tract. You know that knot in your stomach when you are nervous or stressed? That’s in large part due to the vague nerve. Singing is believed to cause relaxation of the GI tract and decreases blood pressure through stimulation of the vague nerve, diaphragm and lungs.
Singing has also been shown to trigger the release of similar endorphins to exercise, which may help improve your mood too. What’s more, because speech processes in the brain are similar to those required for singing, and singing often requires use of both hemispheres of the brain, it is very difficult to sing and worry about something else at the same time.
So, sing your heart out in the shower and kitchen. And, if you are really brave, join a local community choir. Because all of the studies show that singing in a group has huge benefits for mental and physical health. Community choirs are often free or low cost and will help you beat the January blues.
Whether you kitchen dance like no one is watching, or dance professionally your brain and body will thank you. Whilst any form of exercise can be good for beating the blues Dance is a super power and it’s affects for days, weeks or in some cases months after you stop, depending on how often you do it.
For the triple whammy I highly recommend blasting your favourite tune out in the mornings, singing your heart out and jumping around to the music like a loon. It is the fastest way I have found to boost my mood, on my own, and it works every time I do it.
If you aren’t happy dancing, or want to add in the extra boost, exercise is key. Exercise reduces cortisol amongst other hormones responsible for stress. It also boosts the immune system, circulatory system, can induce endorphins if the exercise is intense enough and has the host of physical health benefits that we are all aware of as well.
Solo exercise can be a great mindfulness activity, and be a good opportunity to move to music, group exercise has the additional benefit of social contact to help you laugh and smile with others
It can be as simple as a 15 min walk every day (added benefits to this below), following a free yoga or PT session from YouTube or Vimeo, or using that gym membership that you’ve been paying for, for months now.
6. Chase the sun
Ok, the weather is not exactly always in a cooperating mood at this time of year, so when you see the sun, get outside, even if it’s only a five-minute walk.
If you aren’t sleeping well, a little sunlight can help you brain reset and regulate your sleep cycle too.
Whilst it’s not enough to give you the recommended dose of Vitamin D, getting outside, particularly if you can be surrounded by nature, has also been shown to boost mood, ability to focus and creativity. If you have time on the weekends, take it one step further and intentionally go forest bathing even if the weather is grey. Leave the technology at home to feel the greatest benefit.
“Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Yes, I could not be a coach without mentioning gratitude, after all there is now MRI evidence of the mood boosting, stress relieving effects of gratitude.
So, start with what you are grateful for from last year. Be specific. What went well, what was unexpectedly good and how did you exceed or grow beyond your own expectations? Who in your friends and family grew, did well or supported you last year? List them all out. And thank yourself for getting you this far. It’s something we tend to reserve for others in our lives, but it’s important to thank yourself for the journey, even if there were ups and downs, you are here and that took effort, recognise it.
Secondly write gratitude’s every day, before you go to be. Be specific and include in their things you have done too. Because how we think of ourselves, the language we use internally is key to feeling more positive.
For more ideas and info try happify.com
8. Random Acts of Kindness (RAoK’s)
RAoK’s are also documented to boost our mood and change our brain chemistry. From holding a door or giving a compliment for someone you’ve never met, to helping a friend build a website, tidy their house or look after the kids. RAoK’s don’t have to be big, or public, but doing one a day is enough to help beat back the blues.
9. Stop watching Start learning
As someone who considers themselves educated, this may sound like reversed logic.
Stop Watching the News.
I have not actively sought out a news channel, bulletin, programme or paper in over 2 years and I have felt happier for it. Many other Guru’s, wellbeing professionals and motivational speakers agree. The news is full of negativity that you can do little to affect or change. Instead, start each day with a. little learning, be is a new pod cast, Ted or TEDx talk or book. Spend at least 15 minutes every day, ideally in the morning, letting learning and positivity into your brain.
10. Laugh and smile
As ridiculous as it sounds, your brain can’t fully distinguish between your own fake or real laugh. So, try, at home, on your own or with a very trusted loved one, laugh for no reason to convince your brain you are a little happier today.
Trust me, it works.
In fact, it works so well that Laughter Yoga is growing in popularity across the western world. Need a little help? Try watching this: Happier in 5 minutes.
Oh, your way to or from work today, smile at someone, for now reason. They will smile back and others who see it will smile too. You will all be enjoying a tiny surge in serotonin, known as the happiness hormone. It won’t break the blues, but it will help chip away at it, and you will have started a small but worthwhile smile epidemic.
These are just 10, no cost ways to chip away at the blues this January and I could happily write many more, but this post is already getting long in the tooth.
Most importantly, if you are feeling low right now, please TALK. You are not alone and it is vital that you allow yourself to connect with others to realise this and to gainthe support and help you need to overcome it. January is a tough month, even for us wild eyed entrapreneurs who see opportunity on the horrizon, But together, we can beat the blues, it’s simply about finding the right method for you.
*Please note that this comes with the disclaimer that, no one action will ever solve everything for everyone and if you already suffer from low mental health due to depression, anxiety, SAD or any other form of longer-term mental health condition, whilst the above may still help, they can not replace any advice or medication that your doctor or therapist/ counsellor may prescribe or recommend. If you believe you have more than low mood this January, please do seek medical advice and assistance, it is so vitally important.