How to beat the January blues

The cold months trigger depression for many. [Photo: Getty]

Whether it’s the gloomy weather, long wait ‘til pay day or daunting year ahead, many get down in the dumps come January.

Depression is an issue all year round, affecting up to one in five adults (19.7%) in the UK in 2014, Mental Health Foundation statistics show.

The cold months are a trigger for many, with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) peaking in winter.

Rather than suffering in silence, making plans with friends, confiding in loved ones and being grateful for what you have could be enough to banish the January blues.

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“Once the tinsel is swept up, tree taken to recycling and Champagne flutes put away, January can seem like a bit of a downer,” Dr Meg Arroll, psychologist for Healthspan, told Yahoo UK.

“There is such a long run-up to the festive period, when it’s over many people can feel low.

“This, coupled with lack of daylight and cold weather, means many of us hide away indoors during January.

“The steep drop in human interaction can contribute to negative feelings, along with a sense a new year is upon us, but life hasn’t really changed very much at all.”

Socialise

Rather than suffering silently, Dr Arroll recommends making plans with loved ones.

“You may be doing Dry Jan but this doesn’t mean you have to stop seeing people all together,” she said.

“There will undoubtedly be friends you didn’t manage to catch up with over the busy Christmas time so even if it’s just a phone call, reach out and connect with someone you care about.

“Why not try an old mate you haven’t heard from in a while? The sense of a shared past will trigger a warm glow of nostalgia to bust any January blues.”

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Experiment with hygge

You could also try and embrace the Norwegian practice hygge.

“Many find solace in building a cosy nest with a warm fire to shut out the wet and cold,” Dr Paul McLaren, medical director at Priory Hayes Grove, told Yahoo UK.

“Find an upside that works for you.”

Sort your finances

With Christmas being expensive, January may also be the perfect time to get a handle on your finances.

“Cancel any subscriptions you don’t use, compare prices for power if you’re on a standard gas or electricity tariff and set a budget for the year,” Dr Arroll said.

“Money can be an elephant in the room but once it’s tackled, you’ll feel lighter and more hopeful for the year ahead.”

Dr McLaren agrees, adding financial difficulties should be faced sooner rather than later.

“Ignoring them will not make them go away and will only compound your problems,” he said.

“Make a positive plan for dealing with it. Share the burden. Confide in those close to you.

“If you are in real difficulties, seek help from reputable sources.”

Citizens Advice provides information on how to cope with debt and money worries.

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Look for the good in your life

While many gain weight over the festive period, and beat themselves up for not achieving New Year’s resolutions, now is not the time to be hard on yourself.

“There is always something to be grateful for, even if it’s simply you coped with a tough time,” Dr Arroll said.

“Give yourself a friendly and compassionate self-esteem boost by writing down your three best qualities.

“This kind start to 2020 will help you to feel empowered and positive for the year to come.”

While it is normal to feel down now and again, depression is a recognised medical condition and requires action.

“It is important to distinguish reactive sadness from clinical depression,” Dr McLaren said. 

“If you are in a depressive illness, every day can feel bleak and dark and hopelessness.”

Seek help if you need to

Feeling persistently sad for around two weeks should raise alarm bells, according to the NHS.

Your GP may recommend self-help groups or exercise to boost your mood. In more severe cases, antidepressants or talking therapies may be required.

Find out more about depression at Mind’s website.