What is Blue Monday?
Blue Monday refers to the third Monday of January and implies that it’s the most depressing day of the year. The phrase was originally coined by a travel company as a marketing ploy to sell more holidays. In my experience, it’s the whole of January that’s the problem, not just one particular day. So why does January feel so extreme?
Well, like most extreme situations it’s never just one thing, it’s usually a combination of events and occurrences…
Why do I feel like this?
The sky is black, you are blue and your bank account is red!
Common goal – On the run-up to Christmas everyone has a shared focus. We all discuss our plans, our favourite films and present ideas. We are all bombarded with adverts and Christmas songs. Most of us feel part of the big Christmas machine with a support network of friends, colleagues and family. It culminates in a big party with Big Ben, party poppers, fireworks and champagne…then, in an instant, it’s all over and you’re back at work…alone.
Infectious – Everything is made up of energy and that includes us. We are walking, talking energy transponders. Some people make our hearts leap and others make it sink. Human emotions are contagious especially negative ones so, during January, most people seem to emit a negative vibe which culminates in a blanket of despair.
Cold Turkey – I’m not referring to what you’ve been eating since Christmas day; I’m actually talking about withdrawal symptoms. For the last month you’ve been loading your system with sugar, salt, fat and alcohol then, suddenly, you are back at work and it’s all over, but like any drug, if we suddenly stop, it harms our equilibrium. It’s like a large-scale hangover.
Resolution – So January equals returning to work, back to reality, no more excessive eating and drinking, quite the opposite, we are now on a self-imposed diet with an unrealistic fitness regime. Not only that, it’s cold, wet and dark outside AND payday is a while away yet and we’re broke.
Chronobiology –The tides, the Earth, Nature, the Universe and every living thing on the planet are controlled by rhythms and cycles…including us. Our cycles are governed by biology or to be more specific, ‘Chronobiology’. There are 3 main rhythms:
· Ultradian rhythms. This is the smallest type. We can focus and concentrate for around 90 minutes before they cut in and take over, forcing our system to relax, that’s why we find ourselves daydreaming. It’s also why films are usually an hour and a half in length and courses are divided into 90 minutes between coffee breaks.
· Circadian rhythms. These go in 24-hour loops and control our sleep/wake cycle.
· Infradian rhythms. These are the largest cycles. Humans don’t hibernate but most of our hardwired programming came from when we were cavemen. During cold months we would slow down to conserve energy. Doesn’t it make sense that we should be relaxing a bit in January rather than putting pressure and expectations on ourselves? No wonder we are so stressed! Resolutions, fitness and diets would be so much easier to maintain if New Year was at the beginning of spring rather than bang in the middle of winter.
Everlasting winter – Christmas is associated with winter and (due to its increasing commercial nature) shop, TV and internet advertising now start the day after Halloween, in November. The problem is that, in the Northern Hemisphere, November is autumn so this makes winter feel never-ending.
What can I do about it?
When I have a client in Harley Street who is suffering the effects of the January blues I find that just sharing the above information has a positive effect, after all, knowledge is power. However, I’m now going to share my 10 tips for defeating Blue Monday (and Blue January):
1. Happy thoughts.This is a technique I use when someone tells me they feel down. Think of how you feel and give it a number. 0 is despair and 10 is elation. Now think about someone you love, your best friend, partner, family member or colleague. Now, remember them laughing, really laughing. Think about the noise they make, how they screw their face-up if they cry when they laugh if they double up or have to sit down. Remember the details of the situation, what they were wearing, where you were, why it was so funny. Recall the details as though you are seeing it through your own eyes. Check your number again, gone up hasn’t it?
2. Happy Music
Most people have a list of songs appropriate for the situation – energetic for exercising, soothing for relaxing etc. So why not compile a playlist just for feeling good – those songs that whisk you away to a fantastic memory? It doesn’t matter what, or how embarrassing the songs are if they make you feel good then who cares? Your employer may even allow you to listen to your playlist at work if you explain that it’s a temporary mental health boost during January.
If you want something back, give it away. Want someone to smile at you, smile at them first. This is the basis of great human interaction. If you want a boost during Blue Monday give someone you like a compliment. Giving a great compliment feels as good as receiving one and the best ones aren’t physical – it’s nice to know that someone likes your new shoes but nowhere near as nice as being told you have a positive influence on their life.
4. Magnificent Magnesium
Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s sedative’, it is a muscle relaxant and great at calming the nervous system. It is also one of the best minerals for reducing stress and anxiety. Natural foods include spinach, broccoli, almonds, Brazil nuts, salmon and tuna, you could also take a supplement.
5. Chew Gum
The process of chewing relaxes us, another reason people comfort eat. The key is to chomp on good quality, naturally sweetened, sugar-free gum instead of calories. When we were cavemen we were in constant threat from attack by predators, especially when they detected our precious food. For safety we would eat in our groups – we would eat when we feel safe, when we feel safe we relaxed, therefore (from a hardwired neurological perspective) when we chew we are telling our subconscious mind that all is well, this relaxes our Nervous system. Buy a quality gum and use it throughout January and make sure you’ve got some handy on Blue Monday. I give ‘Rescue Remedy’ gum to my clients and I get great feedback. You can find this in high street chemists or online.
6. Born to Run
Get rid of the guilt associated with paying for something you don’t use and remove the pressure of forcing yourself to go somewhere you don’t want to be, in other words: cancel your gym membership. If you genuinely enjoy spending your valuable free time travelling to and from a hot, stuffy room full of self-conscious people waiting for their turn on some warm, damp machinery, then that’s great. If, however, you would like to work out, anytime, anywhere, quietly, by yourself, without stress or judgement then spend the money you saved from your membership on a pair of quality running shoes and a GPS heart monitor. Put your kit on, go outside and start walking or running, it’s that simple! You are a natural runner; it’s in your DNA. Running has dictated the shape of our anatomy verified by the fact that we can run further than any other animal on the planet, even horses. You can start by walking then walk-run, jog or even sprint – it can be both aerobic and anaerobic. You can do a simple mile or a marathon. With a GPS heart rate monitor, you can measure every aspect of your run: time, distance, elevation, speed, heart rate and recovery time. You can use this information to compete against the only person that matters – yourself!
7. Meditation in Motion
Not only are running and walking great exercises but they’re also great for our mental health. I’ve studied and experimented with meditation and hypnosis all over the world and I’ve experienced some incredible trances. I’ve even tried waterfall meditation in Malaysia but it just gave me a stiff neck and a headache. Like anything else worth doing it isn’t easy and takes practice. But you can get the same result via any repetitive exercise like walking, running, skipping, swimming, rowing or bag work. When you relax into something and find a rhythm you lower the frequency of your brain and magic occurs – if you have a life problem or even a creative block, go out for a long run (or any repetition) and you will come up with a solution or at least gain some insight. I practically wrote my books thanks to running.
8. Vitamin D
Another reason people feel down in January is that they travel to and from work in the dark. The problem with this isn’t just psychological though, we actually need light in our lives. When we are exposed to daylight, even in the winter, our skin produces Vitamin D and many experts feel that this helps regulate our circadian pattern which improves our sleep/wake cycle. In many studies, low levels are linked to anxiety and depression. So during January try to get out in the daylight as much as possible. Go for a walk during your lunch break, the more light you get the better you’ll feel. This is just another reason why I think street running/walking is so great. I would also recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement.
9. Mess Equals Stress
Everyone and everything is comprised of energy and vibrates at a given frequency including us. This is not opinion, it’s a fact. Doesn’t it then follow that everything affects everything else? From a quantum perspective, the mess can disrupt our balance and harmony. If you were to walk, blindfold, into a junk-filled room then enter a Zen minimalist area, I guarantee you’d be able to FEEL the difference. From a practical perspective, mess makes us feel overwhelmed and out of control. There is nothing more stressful than trying to find something important in a pile of mess and few things better than having a neat, tidy work area then going home to an immaculate, clean sanctuary.
10. Wish List
I feel like I understand Blue Monday better than most. It was this exact period a few years ago that I found myself in the depths of despair, close to a breakdown, with no options on a cold, dark, wet night in January. So, how did I get out of it? I wrote a wish list. I then spent the next two years ticking off every item. Don’t underestimate the power of this; I’ve helped loads of past clients with this simple process. The key to this is the details: you need to think of something you’ve always wanted to do, then imagine yourself doing it. You need to VISUALISE yourself doing it ‘associated’ – looking through your own eyes as though you are experiencing it and fill in as much detail as you can; the sounds, the smells, the colours. This makes it real – a memory that hasn’t happened yet. Once you set yourself on this mission your unconscious mind will start to present you with ideas. When we give a future event positive, tangible, substance it gives it energy. It takes on its gravity and it draws us towards it. Think of a place you’ve always wanted to visit and put it at the top of your list.