In January, many people feel like the fun is over and winter will never end. This is when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can creep in." says Natalie Pennicotte-Collier, clinical hypnotherapist at mindtonictherapy.com & Neat Mental Health Ambassador.
"However, you have the power to create summer and light in your mind. Your subconscious does not know the difference between imagination and reality. When you close your eyes and visualise a beautiful sunny morning, you start allowing positive feelings to flow through you and this gives you a boost of serotonin to get you out of bed and face the day with a spring in your step."
Here are some of our top tips for getting in a summer state of mind & beating the January blues...
Focus on Your Strengths
Rather than focus on your weaknesses and how to fix them - which is what we usually do with our New Year's resolutions - focus on your strengths and how you can use them to live a more fulfilling life.
"Focus on what you have instead of what you don't have" says our Supercoach Natalie "In the new year, instead of thinking of all the obstacles in your way, try focusing on the good things and people you have in your life. Taking time out to notice simple pleasures and practice gratitude can give us a more positive outlook in life." When you practice gratitude, it makes you feel better about your life and more optimistic and you’re less likely to feel stressed, envious and negative.
One study found that simple habits form more quickly in the morning than in the evening. Researchers believe this may be to do with levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which tend to be highest when we wake up. Cortisol elevation changes the mechanisms in our brain – it blocks the prefrontal cortex, meaning behaviour becomes habitual.
Then, each day, take one strength and try to use it in an innovative way. According to research, applying your character strengths in your daily life may help you chase your January blues away."
Consistency Beats Perceived Willpower
Forget the old fashioned misconception of willpower - you need to 'nudge' your way towards what you want to achieve. Small, discernible daily changes are the only way to go. Consistency will beat up willpower any day of the week.
Rather than New Year's resolutions, we need New Year's resilience! That's the real muscle we need to work on.
Leave Your Desk at Lunchtime
January blues are compounded by the lack of daylight. It's dark when you leave the house in the morning, and it's dark when you leave work in the evening. Daylight lifts the mood, even if the sun is behind the clouds, so make sure to leave your desk at lunchtime and get outside.
Eat Good Mood Foods
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids block chemicals called cytokines that can cause low mood. Oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna), flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds are all good sources. Some studies also link diets low in folate to low mood. Cabbage, broccoli and sprouts are good sources of folate.
Exercise and Sleep
Studies show that exercise is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. Thirty minutes of activity a day, such as brisk walking, could also tackle the January bulge, too. Weekend, post-Christmas, sleep "catch-ups", meanwhile, will make you even more lethargic than usual. Sleep experts advise establishing a regular pattern of seven to eight hours per night - keeping your bedtime and waking times consistent to really reset your body clock.
After a month of preparation, the first week of January can feel anti-climactic by comparison. Having something to look forward to can help to lift you out of the slump. "It's known as 'rosy prospection'," explains Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. "Anticipation of happiness is sometimes greater than the happiness actually experienced," she says. So book a trip (Booking.com offer a 'pay later' option), sign up to a course or organise a meal out on payday, and notice how much better it makes you feel!