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  • Rebecca Capper

Have you got the January Blues? 5 tips to beat them

Whilst ‘Blue Monday’, supposedly the most depressing day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, is a made-up marketing ploy that was created in 2005 to sell more holidays, feeling blue in January is very real.

There is no doubt about it, January can be a depressing and anxiety provoking month for many people. In the UK the weather is usually miserable and the days are short, the holidays are over and many of us are faced with money worries, especially as the cost of living increases. On top of this many people are unwell with viruses and the levels of covid are high.

I always find January difficult. After the buzz of December, January feels so bleak. I find that I am quite sensitive to the shorter days and want to spend my time huddled up indoors, thus getting even less light exposure and less exercise and usually ending up with low levels of vitamin D, making me feel even worse.

So, what can we do to feel better?

1) Get outside during daylight hours

This is my number one tip because it has so many benefits – even when it’s cold and raining. Being outside increases our exposure to light which can help us produce more vitamin D as well as improving our circadian rhythms, the biological processes which regulate our sleeping and waking hours. Going outside, especially to green spaces, has also been shown to reduce stress levels, improve mood, improve concentration and improve sleep. Studies

conducted by the University of Derby show that our relationship with nature, or ‘nature connectedness’, not only improves our overall wellbeing but also our desire to protect the environment.

Going outside is a good thing, but if you have more serious symptoms such as persistent irritability, tearfulness, low self esteem, loss of interest in things you would usually enjoy and lethargy it is important that you speak with your GP as you may be experiencing Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD).

2) Schedule time with friends or to do things you enjoy

After the holidays sometimes things can seem quite bleak in January. It might be that for you the holidays are full-on and you are exhausted by the hubbub, or perhaps December is a difficult and lonely time for you and January is just more of the same. Scheduling some things that you enjoy that connect you with others can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Taking some time to do the things you love can also bring a sense of wellbeing and connectedness with yourself.

3) Be present with yourself

When we are feeling low or anxious it is usually because we are experiencing a feeling or emotion at a deeper level that we need to connect with. Taking time to stop and listen to yourself can be a powerful way to acknowledge and accept whatever it is that you are feeling. There are myriad ways to do this, for example breathing exercises, journaling, or meditation - to name just a few. The key thing is to schedule some time for self-reflection and be intentional about it. Notice what comes up for you and meet yourself with curiosity and compassion. It might be that you spot a pattern or trigger for your feelings that you can listen to. Sometimes when we listen to ourselves and notice patterns of thoughts, feelings or behaviours, we might find it helpful to talk to someone we trust or seek professional support to explore further. You can contact Samaritans for emotional support 24 hours a day here.

4) Eat simple healthy meals

Eating healthy food can help us feel better all year round, but it is especially important in the winter. Healthy food helps maintain a stable blood sugar level which can combat fatigue and help you concentrate better. A healthy diet also provides the nutrients you need to have a healthy immune system and fight off seasonal viruses more efficiently. The British Nutrition Foundation has some great tips on how to rethink your eating habits and to save money.

5) Think about your finances

January can be really tough financially, and even more so this year with the cost of living crisis. This article has some great tips for thinking about your finances, budgeting and making your money go a little further. There are also other specialist organisations who can help you if you are in financial crisis. These are:

I hope that these tips are useful to you and you can use some of them to banish the January blues this year. Maybe you will start to take a daily walk, begin a journaling practice or find a therapist? You could even combine some some mindfulness with going outdoors - find out more here.

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