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Surviving Blue Monday

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Surviving Blue Monday
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    As we enter January the whirlwind of festivities, merry-making, indulgence and celebrations grind to a halt for another year and we slowly make our way back to the reality that is January. The Christmas decorations come down, we pick back up where we left off with work mid-December, we swap indulgence for healthy eating regimes, we stick it out until the January pay day and have to endure a slew of cold, wet weather.

    It’s no wonder we can feel lacking in motivation and low in mood - the third Monday in January has become commonly known across social media and campaigns as ‘Blue Monday’, supposedly the most depressing day of the year. 

    But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, we’re diving into all things Blue Monday and here to give you tips on how to ensure you’re looking after your health and wellbeing this January (and every month for that matter)... 

    What Do The Experts Have To Say?

    Sky Travel coined the term ‘Blue Monday’ in 2005 where they claimed to have calculated the date using an equation. The formula uses a range of factors including debt levels, weather conditions, time since Christmas, time since new year’s resolutions, low motivation levels and the feeling of needing to take action. Let’s take a look… 

    Blue Monday Formula

    Some have said that these factors, even when combined, are nonsensical and there is no credible evidence that this is the most depressing day of the year as we need to be looking after our mental health all year round. With many companies using Blue Monday as a way to promote holiday deals, spa retreats and its origins coming from a travel company’s press release, many question the true validity of the science behind Blue Monday. But, there’s no doubt that we all experience the feeling of the January Blues and as we enter January we should see it as a fresh start for prioritising our mental and physical health and wellbeing. 

    Here are our top tips… 

    10 Expert Tips on Surviving Blue Monday 

    1. Make Time For You 

    Our social lives tend to boom in December with Christmas events with work, friends and family. It is the season of giving after all, but come January it’s really important to take time out for yourself and have some dedicated ‘you time’. 

    You could try exploring a new hobby, get back to creating healthy nutritious meals or find new ways to relax such as reading, going for walks or trying yoga or meditation. 

    2. Prioritise Your Mental Health

    Looking after your mental health plays a wider role in managing your overall health and wellbeing and has its long term impacts. There are a number of things you can focus on to improve your mental health such as getting enough sleep, moving daily, drinking enough water, taking regular breaks throughout your workday, connecting with friends and family and spending time learning new skills and hobbies. 

    Make a list of things that bring you good health and that you enjoy doing, and try to incorporate more of those things into your day… 

    3. Get A Good Night's Sleep 

    We mentioned its importance before, and we’ll say it again… getting enough sleep is crucial for your health and wellbeing. Without enough sleep, our bodies struggle to function properly. Not only is sleep good for our body but it helps repair and restore our brains as well as our bodies. 

    Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works hard to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content, influencing mood and emotional reactivity. 

    getting sufficient sleep is important for mental health

    There are a number of ways you can improve your sleep and your mental health:

    • Sticking to a  particular bedtime
    • Finding ways to wind down before bed and including these in your bedtime routine
    • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine once the evenings roll around
    • Turn down the lights! No big lights allowed, dim lights and make your space cosy and put your electronic devices down for the day
    • Get outside as much as possible - even just going for a walk and exposing yourself to the natural light of day can do wonders for your body
    • Make sure your bed is cosy and comfortable 
    • When going to sleep make sure you block out any light or sound that might wake you up

    Listen To Your Favourite Music or Podcast 

    2023 is all about doing more of the things you enjoy and that make you feel good. When you’re on the way to work, working from home, working through tasks, doing jobs around the house, why not pop on your favourite podcast or uplifting playlist?

    listening to music or a podcast can really lift your spirits

    You could even make a ‘Blue Monday’ playlist to banish those January blues filled with all your favourite songs, or if you want to keep with the theme, all songs containing the title ‘Blue’ - have some fun creating a new playlist whatever you decide. 

    Get Outside 

    Spending time outside in nature has so many amazing benefits from reducing stress levels, improving sleep to improving our concentration and focus by allowing us to get away from demands and distractions and be more present. So whether it’s walking your dog in the morning, going for a walk on your lunch break, gardening or taking up a new hobby make sure you find ways of getting out and about that you enjoy. 

    Create a Positive Working Environment

    You might not realise but your workspace, office, remote work setups… the places you spend 8 hours a day (or more) working, all have an impact on your health and wellbeing. We’ve got some tips for making the most of your workspace… 

    In the office:

    • Have flexible work environments: Have quiet zones, collaborative zones and social spaces. Having dedicated spaces encourages employees to move around the office and having dedicated spaces for socialising, deep work and collaboration is essential for focus, productivity and connection in the workplace. 
    • Promote Movement: Humans are not designed to sit all day at desks. Some offices incorporate walking meetings into their work day or have games like pool and foosball for employees to play on as a break from work. 

    In the office and working remotely

    • Maximise natural lighting as much as possible
    • Bring the outside in: Whether it’s a living wall or a couple of plants at your desk, bringing nature into your workspace can help to reduce toxins in the air as well as increase productivity
    • Ensure your equipment supports you to do your job well

    Use Flexible Working To Your Advantage 

    Flexible working gives you control over the hours you work which enables you to have a healthier work/life balance. Whether you choose to avoid commuting during rush hour, attend medical or personal appointments without taking holidays or unpaid time off, flexible working is a step in the right direction to helping improve mental health at work. 

    69% of employees experience a good work life balance because of flexible working

    Flexible working is ultimately there to help people balance the demands of the workplace and their personal lives much effectively. 69 per cent of employees felt that flexible working helped them maintain a work-life balance.

    Set Yourself Realistic and Attainable Weekly Work Goals

    With the start of the new year comes new year's resolutions, hopes and dreams for the year ahead and goals for our work and personal lives, which can all feel very overwhelming. In fact, only 46% of people who make New Year's resolutions are successful, but why? 

    Only 46% of people who make new years resolutions are successful

    Once the excitement of a fresh new year wears off, people struggle to stick to their plans. People tend to have one overarching big goal, but it’s important to break it down into smaller tasks each day and week. Achieving goals is a long-term process and writing down your big goal and how you’ll achieve that through smaller goals and sticking to it is the key to being part of the successful 46%.

    Get Creative 

    Being creative helps to increase our positive emotions, reduce low mood and improves symptoms of anxiety. Scientists even highlight the importance of engaging in creative activities to benefit our mental health and having higher positive affect in our days

    Being creative can be anything from dancing to painting, drawing, journalling, writing, making playlists, cooking, arranging flowers - any activity that sparks your imagination, makes you feel alive is good for getting in that creative zone and getting much needed joy and fun into your day.  

    Eat Well 

    There’s no denying you are what you eat, the healthier you are, the better you feel. 95% of the body’s serotonin supply is produced by your gut bacteria. When you stick to a diet of nutrient rich foods you improve your mood, your focus and ensure you feel your physical best. On the other hand, an inadequate diet can lead to fatigue, impaired decision making and eventually lead to stress.

    95% of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut

    If you do anything this January try and make some healthy food swaps, start with making your breakfasts, lunches and dinners healthier one by one and each week continue to make healthier changes. 

    Conclusion 

    January doesn’t have to be blue, be sure to make a conscious effort by following some (or all!) of these tips to ensure you’re looking after your health and wellbeing in these final few months of the winter season. Take time for yourself and remember, the lighter nights and warmer weather are on the way. 

    Victoria

    Vic is one of Oaks Content Marketing Specialists. She specialises in communication and marketing and is also a host on the Comms In A Nutshell podcast for Internal Comms & HR professionals.