20 expert tips to beat Blue Monday… from eating bread & chocolate to sleeping
BETWEEN bleak weather keeping us indoors and festive weight gain still sticking around, it’s no surprise Blue Monday can put a bit of a dampener on our mood.
Dubbed the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday – thought up by Dr Cliff Arnall back in 2005 – falls on the third Monday of January every year and is supposedly the day we feel, well, a bit blue.
So, as this day swings round once again, give these 20 easy hacks a go to brighten your mood, fast.
1. Start the day positively
Health and Fitness Coach Amanda Price (amandapricekirby.com) says the right wording can send positive messages to your brain.
“When you first get out of bed in the morning, say out loud, ‘It's going to be a good day’.”
Then, when you go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and give yourself a high five – put your hand on the mirror and say something positive like, ‘It's going to be a good day’.”
2. Move for a minute
We’re not talking about anything intense; instead, Amanda recommends some stretching or yoga poses, or even a little dance in the kitchen while you're waiting for the kettle to boil.
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3. Check your priorities
Are you working too many hours? Have you said ‘Yes’ too often and too easily?
Have you booked up all your available time? Is everything important?
“Chances are you feel stressed and alienated from those close to you.
“Address this by recalibrating your priorities and review how much time you spend on each habitual activity,” says Psychologist Jan P. de Jonge working with Feel Good Contacts (www.feelgoodcontacts.com).
4. Stretch it out
A good stretch can increase blood flow to the muscles and release feel-good endorphins in the body.
“To wake yourself up after sleep or sitting down for a long time, we get ready for movement and work by automatically stretching our body,” explains Jan.
“It’s what’s called ‘natural pandiculation’ and includes yawning, stretching your arms, arching your back, making yourself as stretched out as possible after first tensing your muscles.”
5. Try light therapy
“Reduced exposure to daylight over the winter months is thought to play a crucial role in the winter blues, as it disrupts our sleep-wake cycle and reduces the production of ‘feel good hormone, serotonin,” says David Wiener, Training and Nutrition Specialist at Freeletics (go.onelink.me/lqpq/freeletics).
“Make sure you get outdoors each day, even for 15 minutes on your lunch break, ensuring your work area is light and airy.
“Sitting near windows can help too.”
You could also consider investing in a light therapy box; these mimic natural outdoor light and have been said to help with symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
6. Eat a rainbow
Food doesn’t just give us energy, but certain nutrients help our body function properly. Different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients, which each provide different benefits.
“Aim to increase your intake of colourful fruit and veg by setting yourself realistic targets such as two to three different colours of veg with each evening meal and a side salad with every lunch,” says David.
7. Increase your vitamin D
In the UK’s winter months, sunlight is scarce, and as sunlight is the driving force behind creating vitamin D in our body, it makes sense that we might want to consider a supplement between October and April.
“Vitamin D supplementation during the winter months has been shown to improve mood,” says David.
The NHS recommends taking at least 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day.
8. Increase tryptophan-rich foods
“Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin,” says David, who adds that the best way to get more of this nutrient is through what we eat.
He recommends eating foods such as turkey, beef, bananas, beans, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds.
9. Green bananas and berries for breakfast
Both of these sweet fruits can help with mood-boosting, according to Hussain Abdeh, Clinical Director at Medicine Direct (www.medicinedirect.co.uk).
“Containing high levels of vitamin B6, bananas help to synthesise dopamine and serotonin, positive neurotransmitters that can improve your mood.
“Eating bananas that still have some green colour to the skin also helps you to ingest some prebiotics, which is fibre that promotes healthy gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria have been linked to decreased mood disorders.”
Berries on the other hand are rich in antioxidants, believed to help manage inflammation which is linked to depression.
10. Have a declutter
Out with the old, both physically and mentally.
“It feels great to sort through unneeded clothes, paperwork, rejig the living and work space and make it feel fresh and inspiring,” recommends Rosie Stockley, Women’s Fitness Specialist and Founder of Mamawell (www.mamawell.org).
“Taking time to care for your objects and sorting through things you really love works to promote a feeling of gratitude and sense of optimism about your home life.”
11. Indulge in chocolate
Often found on our banned list of January foods, dark chocolate can actually help swerve a bad mood.
Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert explains that dark chocolate contains N-Acylethanolamine, which is chemically similar to cannabinoids, compounds found in the cannabis plant.
Aim for chocolate containing a cacao percentage of 70 or higher.
12. Eat bread for lunch
Wholegrain bread contains fibre, which can support our gut health.
“Fibre feeds the good bacteria that live there (in our gut), which send messages to our brain to enhance our mood.
“They also play an important role in helping serotonin production,” explains Rhiannon.
She adds that carbohydrates also provide sustained energy.
Lack of energy can lead to feelings of tiredness, irritability and low mood.
13. Drink up
Dehydration means your body is losing more fluids than it can take in and if your body continues to lose too much fluid, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog.
“Keeping your body fully hydrated with water can provide so many health benefits and can help boost your mood, and increase your body and brain function too,” reveals Chris Sanders, Hydration Expert at Radnor Hills Infusions (www.radnorhills.co.uk/infusions/).
“Adequate daily fluid intake is approximately 15 glasses (3.7 litres) of water a day for men and roughly 11 glasses (2.7 litres) of water a day for women.
“Water, fruits with a high water content and tea, all count.”
14. Write it down
Even 10 minutes of journaling can offer a release.
“Write down any and all thoughts,” says Stephanie Newkirk, owner of Metal Fitness (metalfitnesstraining.com).
“Do you feel a certain way? Note that.
“Write as though you are talking out loud.
“Getting your thoughts out on paper allows you to refrain from bottling up emotions, and reflect versus react to them.”
15. Get active
“Moving your body gets your 'happy hormones' elevated which boosts your mood.
“Try a 20 minute walk, an exercise class or video at home or even cleaning your house,” advises Stepahnie.
16. Try a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets are designed to be heavier than your typical duvet and are said to mimic deep pressure stimulation.
“This sensation helps relax the nervous system and can bring an overall sense of calm and peace,” says Stephanie Taylor, Health and Wellbeing Expert at Stress No More (www.stressnomore.co.uk/well-being/clean-air-care/air-purifiers.html).
These blankets also help reduce restlessness during sleep and allow you to have a deeper, more restful sleep, which in turn helps improve your mood.
17. Enjoy fermented food
Adding foods such as kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso and natural, unsweetened yoghurt to your daily diet can be really beneficial for low moods on Blue Monday.
“These types of foods feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which produce short-chain fatty acids to support the communication loop between our brain and gut.
“This can improve mental clarity and a positive state of mind,” says Rhiannon.
“Kombucha is a tasty, alternative way to include ferments in your daily diet and reduce overall sugar.
“My go-to is Remedy Kombucha, which is completely free of sugar and full of live cultures, organic acids and antioxidants.”
18. Use aromatherapy
This is a holistic approach to improve your mood and ease stress and anxiety.
“Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally and can help improve your mental and physical health.
“Scents such as lavender and bergamot can help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress,” says Stephanie.
“Use these scents in a diffuser for scents to be distributed throughout the day.”
19. Get your best sleep ever
How much better do you feel after a really good night’s sleep?
Hanna Silva, clinical psychologist at Flow Neuroscience (flowneuroscience.com) says that creating a regular sleep routine is the most powerful sleep tool of all with the aim of giving yourself an 8-hour sleep ‘opportunity’ every night.
“Wake up at the same time every day, even during weekends, and start unwinding 90 minutes before bedtime.
“Make sure your brain is nice and relaxed, perhaps read a book – maybe not a thriller though – meditate, take a shower, listen to relaxing music or do other calming activities.”
20. Box breathing
Box breathing is a great technique to try when you’re feeling low or overwhelmed.
“It helps improve your mood, enhance concentration, and reduce stress,” explains Nevsah Karamehmet, Founder of Breath Hub.
“Slowly breathe in through the nose for a count of four, hold your breath for four, breathe out through the nose for a count of four and hold your breath for four.
“You can visualize a four-by-four square as you practice this exercise.
“Your belly should rise as you inhale and relax as you exhale.
“After a couple of minutes, you will feel rejuvenated.”
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