Blue Monday - how to beat the blues

depressed man

With Christmas and New Year a distant memory, the effects of the long, dark nights and chilly days are no doubt getting to many Brits. And as we begin the last full week of January, the so-called 'Blue Monday' - said to be the most depressing day of the year - will be taking its toll.

If the doom and gloom have you feeling blue, there are plenty of easy lifestyle tips that can make a real difference.

Eat healthily
With the cold often at its most biting at this time of year, it can be tempting to turn to the comfort of carbs and chocolate, but to combat a low mood, a healthy diet is a must. Instead of burying your head in the biscuit barrel, boost your energy and mood with regular helpings of oily fish, whose omega-3 fatty acids can help to lift you up, and ensure there is plenty of fresh fruit and veg in your diet. The nutritious vitamins and minerals will help to prevent winter bugs laying you low.

When the rain is lashing down outside, it's hardly surprising that many of us prefer to stay curled up on a comfy sofa in winter. However, social interaction is a great way to feel better... and we're not talking about Facebook or Twitter. If you're prone to the winter blues, don't isolate yourself. Instead, make the effort to visit or plan a night out with friends or family, and feel your mood lifted with a good chat and a few laughs. Alternatively, try a new hobby or take a class that will allow you to meet and chat regularly with other like-minded folk.

Take a deep breath
Okay, so it's not quite that simple, but mindfulness techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing are well known to help relieve stress and anxiety, and improve not only your general feeling of mental wellbeing, but give you the tools to better cope when you're on a low. There are many online courses, including one run by the Mental Health Foundation, and if you join a local class, you'll get the added benefit of the social aspect.

Venturing out into the cold and dark for a run might not seem terribly appealing, but exercise is important for mental health, since it causes the brain to release feel-good endorphins. Winter can also leave us feeling lethargic, and activity can combat this lack of motivation by boosting your energy levels. And you don't need to endure the cold, wind and rain - try some indoor exercise in the form of a DVD, Wii Fit or even a simple household chore session, or hit your local sports centre for a swim.

Get help
While many of us feel low at this time of year, for some it can become a real problem. If you suffer badly with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), don't be afraid to seek help. The condition affects an estimated seven per cent of the British population, and can lead to issues with depression and anxiety. Where SAD begins to affect your day-to-day life, visit your GP for advice on everything from therapy to medication, or try the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association for information on local support groups.

Do you suffer from the winter blues? What do you do to combat the symptoms? Leave your comments below...
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