Every January, the third Monday of the month is labelled as Blue Monday - supposedly the time of year when we’re struggling to keep our resolutions, we’re broke from Christmas overspending and the winter weather has really started to kick in. With the addition of lockdown measures keeping us shacked up indoors, 2021’s Blue Monday will probably be billed as the ‘bluest’ ever.
Of course, the thought of having a most ‘depressing’ day of the year is nonsense. Blue Monday was dreamed up by the marketing teams of travel companies to try to persuade us that booking our summer holiday will cheer us up. But, that being said, January can be a difficult month for everyone – a post-Christmas comedown where we’re all a bit poorer, fatter and without fun things to look forward to on the horizon.
But January is also a time to reset and to start some healthy new habits. Here’s some things that you can build into your life to help you stay positive and to fight off feeling blue.
Spend less time on social media
For most of us, lockdown and isolation has meant spending more time on our phones. Although social media can be a great way to escape your own four walls and to keep in contact with friends and family, it can also have negative effects. From the extremes of cyberbullying to the more common issues of chasing likes and comparing your ordinary, mundane life to everyone else’s seemingly fabulous one – there’s lots that can make us feel anxious and down.
Taking the decision to cut down on your social media time has lots of benefits – and not just on our mental wellbeing. From making us more creative and focussed to helping us sit less and do more, putting your mobile down for long periods every day really can help build more positivity into your life.
Start saying ‘yes’
With cold, miserable weather plus lockdown measures, it’s easy to feel the need to shut the door, close the curtains and wait for the whole thing to blow over. Self-isolation is important right now, but it’s not a healthy habit in the long term and it will be something that many of us need to break when things start getting back to normal.
In preparation for this, get into the habit now of saying ‘yes’ to more opportunities that come your way. From doing zoom quizzes to going out for a walk with a friend, grab every opportunity that comes your way to do something fun and different that helps break the monotony of current life and that helps you stay connected with people.
In the longer term, getting into the habit of saying ‘yes’ more often can create new opportunities, help you meet new people and keep you growing as a person.
But also learn how to say ‘no’
At the same time as not closing yourself off to new opportunities, it’s important to remember your time and headspace is a commodity and should be valued. Being too nice and agreeing to take on too much, compromises your ability to do things well and give them the attention they might need. The knock-on effect on your mental wellbeing can be huge, with stress and anxiety caused by feelings of letting yourself and others down building up, not to mention taking away the personal time you need to reset (see below).
If trying to make everyone else happy and taking on too much sounds familiar, then make 2021 the year when you learn how to say ‘no’. It doesn’t have to be confrontational – you’re simply stating that you either don’t have the time or the desire to do something. Do it firmly but politely – you’ll find it empowering and something you want to do more of.
Our connected, modern lives are full on. There’s always a distraction – something to do, something to post, someone to message. Doing absolutely nothing seems to be a thing of the past, meaning we’re suffering fatigue and mental burnout much more quickly than previous generations.
Taking the time to stop and do nothing is habit we must hang on to, especially as life gets back to normal. From giving us more time to think creatively to getting back in touch with your inner-voice, the benefits to our mental health are huge.
So, try and build time into every day where you put the phone down, close your emails and turn off Netflix. Simply sit, breath and let your mind wander – it’s amazing what a positive difference this kind of simple mindfulness can have on your feelings of positivity.
Plan for normal life returning
There’s been so many things we’ve missed over the last few weeks and months, that we’ve probably lost track of them all. Having things to look forward to is great for mental wellbeing, so begin writing them down into a post-covid to do list ready for when things get back to normality. And make sure you cover the big stuff, like partying all weekend at a festival, as well as some of the smaller everyday things that we’ve all missed – like having a coffee with your mum. Rather than make us miss these things all the more, we’ll have created the ultimate 2021 bucket-list that can keep us busy throughout the summer and beyond (fingers crossed!).