Every year, the third Monday of January is dubbed “Blue Monday” – the most depressing day of the year. The theory goes that this is the time of year when we’re all cold, stressed and riddled with guilt that our new year’s resolutions to be a better human being have fallen by the wayside.
Whether you buy into it or not, it’s safe to say that a lot of us are going through a pretty tough time, and lockdown fatigue is taking its toll. It’s easy for the days to merge into one and get caught up in a negative cycle.
But there are ways to feel happier — even during a global pandemic. So to brighten up your Blue Monday, we’ve got some suggestions for things you can try to add a little happiness to your day.
Research suggests that socialising helps boost our mood, however this is a hard thing to do because social distancing often means we can’t physically hang out with the people we care about.
It’s easy to neglect relationships when you’re spending so much time with your own company, but socialising with friends is a really great way to relieve stress and add some laughter and fun to your day.
The act of hanging out with folks in real time, in other words, things like Zoom or FaceTime can be a really powerful way to connect with people.You see their facial expressions, hear the emotion in their voice, you’re really able to connect with them.
Take some time out of your day to connect with your friends or family – particularly those you may not have seen for a while – and see just how much it can help improve your mood.
Happy people tend to be really ‘other’ oriented, meaning they focus on other people’s happiness rather than their own.
This is something that culturally can be a little confusing. We’re often so focussed on the idea of ‘self care’, and treating yourself when we feel down – which certainly has its benefits – but the research suggests if you do nice things for others that tends to boost your happiness even more.
Doing random acts of kindness, particularly in this time when we’re all really struggling, can be incredibly powerful. It has a positive effect on society as well. Helping others doesn’t have to be a chore, and it could be something as simple as helping proofread a friend’s work, cooking a meal for the people you live with or even just sending a nice text message to someone you care about.
Be present in the moment
Happy people tend to be more mindful – present in the moment and noticing what’s happening to them. It’s a skill that not everyone gets the first time round, but it’s definitely something you can build on until you find what works for you.
Meditation can be an incredibly powerful tool in the midst of this crisis because it causes you to focus on what’s happening in your body at the present moment. Your mind can’t be ruminating about when your next deadline is or what’s happening with your elderly relative.
If you struggle to know where to start, we’d recommend trying out an app like Headspace where you can try out short, simple guided sessions – take a look at their student plan here.
Make a downtime list
Struggling with feeling bored and unmotivated? Try out the downtime list. It’s basically what it sounds like – think of it as a low-pressure cousin to the to-do list.
Start by listing out a bank of activities or tasks you either enjoy doing or need to get round to doing. Basically anything that you’ve thought ‘I want to do that eventually’ can go on the list.
It’s a mix of relaxing and productive – maybe you have a new podcast on there you want to listen to, admin tasks you’ve not got round to, recipes to try, videos to watch or friends you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
Not only does a downtime list help when it comes to choosing what to do to cheer yourself up, the act of maintaining it can help keep anxiety down by keeping these tasks and ideas all in one place.
Acquire a low-maintenance skill
There’s a lot of talk about learning to sew or writing books, but new skills can involve costly equipment and a stressful learning curve. Instead of doing all of that, experimenting with a simple pleasure might spark joy and result in a new hobby.
This skill could be anything you can think of; from learning how to grow herbs in your kitchen, watching a video on how to fold your socks, or learning how to parallel park – the possibilities are endless!
Learning a quick new skill can help you feel a sense of achievement, feel productive and improve your day to day life.