Every year, the third Monday in January is declared ‘Blue Monday’ and reported on throughout the UK press. This year, the dreaded day falls on 18 January, and is traditionally reported to be the ‘most depressing day of the year’.
However, what some people may not know is that Blue Monday was actually invented by a travel company back in 2005 as part of an advertising campaign. While January can often seem like a bleak month, with bad weather, lack of money after Christmas and short daylight hours, there’s no science to back up the claims behind Blue Monday at all.
So although it isn’t really the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday can still offer a good opportunity for us to take stock of our own mental health and wellbeing. The winter months can often be difficult and cause us to feel low. Below are some simple steps you can take to help look after your mental health in the darker winter months:
Socialise – Although the cold, wet weather and dark evenings can often tempt us to stay indoors, cutting yourself off from friends or family can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. Organising face-to-face meet-ups improve our feeling of mental wellbeing in a way that technology-based contact can’t.
Exercise – As well as helping us improve our physical health, exercise is also proven to have lots of benefits for our mental health too. The endorphins released after exercise can boost moods, as well as giving us a sense of accomplishment.
Eat better – Looking after our bodies is a great way to help us feel better generally. Avoid junk food and instead eat foods linked to helping cognitive function. The Mental Health Foundation’s guide to diet and mental health can be found here.
Mindfulness – Another tip from the Mental Health Foundation involves mindfulness. Mindfulness is combination of meditation, yoga and breathing techniques, and is often recommended as a way to take stock of how we’re feeling and to improve our mental health.
Employers can also take steps look after their employees’ mental health, especially in the winter months. Encouraging staff to take proper lunch breaks and get outside to make the most of the limited daylight hours is a great step to take. Employers could also consider hosting social events outside of work to help boost employees’ moods.
These are all simple steps which can help to improve your mental wellbeing. However, if you find that your feelings of low mood and depression are so bad that they are affecting your day-to-day life, you should always speak to your GP about getting professional help.
Employees and employers struggling with mental health issues at work can phone the Fit for Work advice line on 0800 032 6235. Employers with an employee off sick for four weeks or more can refer an employee here.