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Beating the January blues
Wendy Grace gives some pointers on how to ward off seasonal sorrows

Often, at this time of year, even though we may have just spent our days counting our blessings with family and friends we can find ourselves feeling down with the ‘January blues’. Sometimes it can be referred to as SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. Luckily there are lots of steps you can take to get the ‘spring in your step’ once again.

One of the first things you can do is start to eat well again. Christmas and New Year is full of fat, sugar and alcohol. This combination can leave you feeling sluggish and has a huge impact on your mood. 

Start to make sure you are eating enough green vegetables and fruit, after your sugar detox of a few days you will start to feel much better. 

There are also a lot of foods that research suggests will boost your mood.

Low mood

For example, Omega-3 fatty acids block chemicals called cytokines that can make you feel low. Multiple studies have shown that people who have insufficient Omega-3 in their diets are much more susceptible to suffer with a low mood. 

So try to include in your diet oily fish several times a week (salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna).  If you don’t eat fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds or flaxseed oil are all good sources and can be added to soups, smoothies or porridge.

Some studies also link diets low in Folate to low mood. Cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and spinach are good sources of folate. 

This is a B vitamin that our bodies need for producing mood-boosting chemicals serotonin and dopamine. You need to eat two portions a day, and if you serve these vegetables with a squeeze of lemon juice the added vitamin C will help your body absorb their iron.

Here is some good news – so you might have thrown out all the empty boxes of Roses, but that isn’t the end of chocolate. Dark chocolate, which is made up of at least 75% cocoa solids, stimulates the production of endorphins. It can also boost levels of serotonin, known as the ‘happy hormone’ or nature’s anti-depressant.

Analyse what you are looking at on TV and listening to on your iPod. Is it uplifting and positive? Because this is what you need right now.  Music stimulates your emotions and can have a huge impact on your mood. Why not create your own ‘happy’ play-list of the songs that always make you feel good?

Getting as much daylight as possible is really important. So many of us leave for work when it is dark and come home when it is dark. Get out at lunchtime and for a 10-minute break in the afternoon, even if it is just walking around the block. Is it bright by the time you get off at your bus stop? Why not get off at an earlier stop? You will get exercise and some extra daylight as well. 

There doesn’t need to be sunshine or heat for us to absorb Vitamin D and getting daylight on your face and hands will make a difference.

Exercise is proven to release endorphins, the ‘happy hormones’ that make us feel good. So while it might seem like a real challenge to get up and moving, getting out for exercise every day will make you feel good. 

It’s important to get outdoors also so try to plan to go for a hike or cycle at the weekend. It might be hard to motivate yourself off the couch in the first instance but once you do this you won’t regret it and you will feel so much better.

Perhaps you have found yourself feeling overwhelmed this month, your credit card bill is due, payday feels very far away, and you still haven’t managed to get the house back in order after putting the Christmas decorations away. Sit down and write a ‘to do’ list of all you need to do to get things running smoothly again. 

Now is also a very good time to review your budget for the year.  Look at all your outgoings and see what areas need to be reviewed, especially things like car or house insurance, electricity/gas, phone bills, etc. Little savings in these areas will all add up.

Your Christmas might have been very busy looking after everyone else but yourself, so make sure to have some ‘me’ time.  It could be as simple as having a nice relaxing bath, taking the time out to read, or maybe you can find time to fit in that new hobby that you have been wanting to try for years. 

Start the year as you mean to go on. If you don’t look after yourself, physically, spiritually and mentally you won’t be able to look after others either.

Plan time off

January is the busiest time of year for people to book holidays.  Myself and my husband usually sit down in January and plan our time off for the year ahead.  

This really helps us to break the year down and we can see where we will get rest and time together. Even having a short weekend away in a B&B is something to look forward to.  

Starting to daydream about your break in the sun, or looking forward to a holiday or short break can do you the world of good.

Sit down and ask yourself what is making you feel down?  Many of us just feel down but we don’t really know why.  So we trundle on without addressing underlying issues.  It is better to acknowledge how you feel so that you can then do something about it. Take a look at all the various elements in your life; your health, your faith, your family, your money, your work and your friends, then give each area a mark out of 10.  

In the areas where you score low, analyse it and see what things you would like to change.  Perhaps when it comes to family you score it low, the reason being because you want more time with them.  Now figure out the best ways to get more time together. 

The most effective way of ensuring that your situation changes for the better is to set a goal. So, in the case of more family time, you might decide you’re all going to, at least once a week, do a family activity together, such as going for a walk or playing a game – and not just at the weekend. 

Please note though, if there are things on this list that are making you anxious or worried you need to talk to someone about them. A problem shared is a problem halved. It’s OK to not feel OK, and it’s absolutely OK to not feel OK and to ask for help be it with a friend or through organisations like Pieta House or The Samaritans. Aware also run a great life skills programme to help you deal with life’s everyday challenges. 

It is so important to nourish our souls.  Using the time and space to pray and hand over our worries and stresses to God is probably the best form of mindfulness there is! Perhaps there is a saint, or piece of Scripture, that always brings your peace? Remember them.