"Staying Mentally Healthy During January" written by Steve Carr (Director at Mindcanyon Mental Health and Mental Fitness) provides a practical insight into maintaining a positive outlook throughout the darker months.
"January, and indeed all of the harsh winter months, can be a difficult time for anyone, no matter how mentally tough you think you are. The shorter days, darker environments and colder weather leaves many frantically calendar-watching, waiting for that oh-so-glorious sunshine to arrive once again.
This, coupled with problems that are more prevalent in the winter, such as feelings of loneliness, increased alcohol consumption and worries for the year ahead, can make winter seem like a challenge to overcome.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, January may be a harder one to withstand. But, there are still some great steps that you can put in place to take control of your mindset and use this as a springboard for the year ahead.
The first, and perhaps most important step, is to ensure that you stay healthy. Staying physically fit will directly impact the state of your mental health too, so it’s crucial to keep focused on this area.
Eat as healthily as you can. You’ll naturally be craving chocolate and other junk food during this time, but make sure you have plenty of fruit and veg too! Where possible, avoid the alcohol, as it’s a natural depressant.
Alongside this, supplement your healthy diet with regular exercise. The recommended amount to train is around three times a week, which will give you a good level of fitness.
Aren’t much of a gym bunny? That’s fine, we’ve all been there. Consider just going for a 10 to 20-minute daily walk, which has been shown to ease the effects of depression.
Surround yourself with positive people
This is a tip that you should hold closely for all seasons, but it can be especially important during winter. Did you know that you’re a product of the five people you most closely associate yourself with?
Do you find yourself always complaining? Always being negative? Do you find that your motivation is non-existent? This could be because of those around you. Surrounding yourself with those that are positive, inspiring and doing great things can boost your own mental state too.
I’m not saying that you’re going to jump out of bed and scream “YAY, IT’S JANUARY!”, but a positive mindset will help you to make the best use of these colder months.
The right lighting
Did you know that there are links between sunlight and happiness? For this reason, consider getting outside in the sunlight whenever you can. Perhaps tie it into your daily walk that we looked at earlier.
You could also think about investing in light therapy, a type of light box that matches your circadian rhythm. While this seems like a small step, it all helps to create a healthier, happier mind.
Be kind to yourself
If you find the winter months tougher, then that’s just the way it is. There’s no point beating yourself up or looking for things to blame. Be kind to yourself. We are naturally going to find some periods of our lives more difficult than others.
The strongest characters are the ones who can weather the storm and come out smiling on the other side. Of course, you’re allowed to give yourself time to feel down or sad, but don’t wallow in these feelings forever.
Do what you can this January to keep yourself happy. Don’t want to go to that party? Just say no. Need a couple of days off of work? Consider booking some holiday to cross off your recreational ambitions for the year!
Have a plan
Some of the points above may seem obvious, and you’ve probably heard them a dozen times before. But there’s a difference between saying “yeah I know I know, I need to exercise more” and actually taking action!
The best way to ensure that you stick to the above steps is by having a plan in place. Hold yourself accountable for your own mental health during January. We’re all going to have blips and struggles, and many of these will be out of our control.
The tips above can help to alleviate some of the winter stresses and create a great surrounding for yourself physically, mentally, and with the circle you associate yourself with.
Having a plan can be as simple as writing “gym” on certain days in your calendar. Did you know that you’re 42% more likely to stick to your goals if you have them written down? So, grab a pen and paper, and stay focused on yourself."
- Steve Carr
If you would like to read more of Steve's content or would like to learn more about Mindcanyon then check out their website!