I am completely bewildered that we are almost halfway through January. I wanted to come on here to see how everybody is doing. To tell the truth, I, myself, am feeling lethargic this morning. I could barely wake up to the cat’s meowls. The thing is, January blues are quite real. So I wanted to write a post on how to beat the January blues.
Did you know that the third Monday of January is deemed Blue Monday? It is supposedly the saddest day of the year and was dubbed so by the press in 2005. The combination of gloomy weather and tight purse strings, lack of holidays and, well, MONDAY resulted in the name. After the excitement from holiday festivities subside and the expectations from New Year become more difficult to reach, of course a more depressed feeling settles in. But we can battle it in healthy ways. (Anyone else doing Dry January?).
A note on Sadness:
Sadness is not a bad thing. Rather, it is a natural human emotion that we should allow ourselves to feel. It is not something to extinguish. We watched the movie “Don’t Look Up” recently and I couldn’t resonate more with their message. There is a difference. Today, the tips I am sharing are not to rid our lives of sadness. I am sharing them to get over the hump. When the blues prevent us from normal function or motivation, sometimes it is helpful to have a few tactics in your back pocket.
How to Beat the January Blues
The best times to get a workout in are early mornings as soon as you wake and late afternoons about four hours before bed. Exercise increases dopamine (boosts mood) and anandamide (joy, bliss) hormone. It will also make you tired enough for bed, giving you more reason to sleep early.
+ Get outdoors
The Japanese word shinrin-yoku means to forest bathe. Forest bathing refers to the activity of getting outdoors, surrounding yourself with trees and going for a walk in the woods. Now California is a desert and we are short on forests here but getting on a trail is much the same thing. There are restorative as well as energetic benefits from being outdoors. It can really boost the spirits and give you a new perspective.
+ Let the Sunlight In
I always open all the curtains and blinds in the morning to let as much sunlight into our home during the day. Natural sunlight and plenty of windows is actually my number one requirement for buying homes. That’s how much it affects my life! Sunlight increases the hormone serotonin, which boosts mood, calms emotions, and helps with focus. I guess you can say sunlight feeds my soul and sets me up for creative success.
Hydration is another frugal life hack that I discovered. People love to spend money on all sorts of formulas and supplements, yet most people fail to drink enough water! Our bodies, having evolved from oceans, are highly receptive to water. Whenever I am low in energy, I pour myself an entire glass of water and drink the whole thing. I make it a point to drink at least 12 glasses of water a day. My co-workers make fun of me for being always at the water refill station (we have one of those high-pH filters) filling up my Kinto water bottle. I am there so much, they’ve nicknamed me the camel!
+ Take a cold shower.
“But isn’t it already cold enough?”, you might say. As counter-intuitive as this sounds, this is a great one. This will activate the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for your stress response. Doing so will cause a spike in nor-adrenaline which boosts mood. Just have a hot cup of coffee brewing in the meantime.
+ Boost Mood with Food
One of my favorites! Certain foods will make our bodies lethargic and lower our moods. I recommend a gut-friendly diet, filled with nuts, greens, fruits, and legumes. My favorite book about nourishing our bodies with food is called Eat to Beat Disease by William Li. I haven’t gotten sick in five years and my body stays in pretty good shape. People ask my all the time how I do it. I eat well, has always been my answer. And trust me, when your body feels good, so do you.
+ Eat Chocolate.
This is coming from a dentist! Eating nutritious food doesn’t have to be bland or boring. If you read the aforementioned book, you will find that it includes some of my favorite things, such as coffee and chocolate! Chocolate contains flavonoids which reduce stress-hormones in your body. Just make sure it is over 80% dark chocolate and not that milk chocolate stuff that is swimming with dairy products and sugar. I go to Whole Foods and buy Chocolove’s Extreme Dark Chocolate (88%) or Endangered Species’s Strong and Velvety (88%). I can eat a whole row of these in one sitting with no remorse.
+ Give Up Alcohol
I gave up alcohol for frugal reasons once and the benefits far exceeded my expectations. Some people use alcohol to cope with depression, but the crash will make it worse. Instead, do the opposite and you might find better results.
+ Avoid the News
The news is there to make you feel bad. As a business model, it is the only way they can keep you coming back for more. Remember 2020 when everyone kept checking the news? Didn’t that feel awful? Didn’t we spiral into something terrible? Avoid the news to feel a smidge lighter. Personally, I never follow the news.
+ Avoid Social Media
As a species built on comparison, social media can both inspire us and bring us down. Depending on the type of people you follow, Instagram may be causing some of your misery and pain. Seeing others thrive all the time can sub-consciously negatively affect your personal perception. I’ve done one month hiatuses from social media before and they have been stellar!
+ Get Plenty of Sleep
Humans are like cell phones in that they need to recharge. Sleep is their power source. Without good sleep, I am a real monster. I feel terrible, my body is tired, my brain in a fog … I mean, utterly useless! Luckily, sleep has always been my forte. As a baby, as a child, as a teenager – my parents have endless stories about me sleeping. Even when my husband and I met, we would literally spend hours in the afternoons napping in college. It was the best! Nowadays, I have a habit of drinking coffee which negates the nap hours needed in the afternoon. But I do still have a strict sleep schedule. You might be shocked to learn that my ideal number of hours of sleep is nine!
+ Re-evaluate Resolutions
You know how some people have bigger eyes than their stomach? Well I have bigger dreams than the universe. When it comes to resolutions and goal setting, I can go a bit overboard. But when you go overboard, you could sometimes drown. So I make it a point to constantly re-evaluate my goals and resolutions. At the end of each day, week, and month, I write down where I struggled. Then I ask myself, “Why was there unrest? Is the goal not aligned with my dharma? Was it too difficult or stressful? Did I not prioritize it enough or set aside enough time to get it done? Does it cause me more stress than good?” Re-evaluate your resolutions to avoid feeling burnout. As a rule of thumb, get rid of every task or goal that is not necessary to making you 1% better. It could honestly be making you 1% worse.
+ Create a Future Reward or Motivation
I am very bad at rewarding myself when I do well. That’s because I never think I deserve it. As someone who experiences self-woe firsthand, let me just nip that in the bud for you now. You deserve rewards, especially if they motivate you. We can’t expect ourselves to always produce. Create something good to look forward to in the future and think of that every time you hit a hump. Plan a trip after a really long stint at work. Take a few days off after a stressful life. Even buy yourself something nice after an achievement. Yeah, I said it.
+ Write affirmations
I used to have a great planner called Mal Paper that required me to write an affirmation about myself every morning. It was really difficult for me. Words of praise are not my thing. But the practice really improved my life. I actually became a better person because of it. When we have low moods or energy, we have trouble finding the good. By starting with an affirmation, you find the good in you, which gives you an idea on how you can give good to the world around you. That’s mood boosting on its own!
Sometimes, reframing the situation is all you need to do in order to get out of a rut. For example, if work has been extremely difficult, you could tell yourself the following things:
- I am so lucky to have a job when so many others do not.
- I am grateful to have co-workers who have my back and who make my day better (list co-workers).
- It may be difficult now, but I know that these moments are helping me grow in my career and as a person.
- I am having difficulty at work because my expectations are too high.
- I am a strong, capable individual who can overcome these difficulties and help my teammates out.
+ Try Something New
If reframing doesn’t help, then pivot onto something new. Humans thrive with new experiences because the novelty gives our brains that dopamine hit. That’s why when you purchase something or do something for the very first time, you experience that short-term high. While it isn’t everlasting, that boost may be just what you need when you’re blue. To continue the previous example:
- Talk to someone about your difficulties.
- Try to change your role at work.
- Switch tasks with someone else.
+ Take a Break
When trying something new doesn’t help either, then just stop and take a break. We don’t allow enough breaks in our lives. I think that doing nothing is one of the most rejuvenating things a person can do. Don’t worry about everyone else. At this point, the focus is on you. Everyone else will be fine.
+ Ask for Help
Lastly, ask for help. If none of these tips on how to beat the January blues helps you, then maybe another person can. When I quit my job and focused on self-improvement, I hired a life and wellness coach for three months. It was amazing. Her name was Michaela Puterbaugh and you can learn about her here.
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