Blue Monday | An Hour-by-Hour Guide on How to Beat it

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Feeling Blue Monday Bluh? Here's a Day-long Timeline on How to Beat It

An expert guide to making it through today

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While the whole 'Blue Monday' thing is hot air (the 'calculation' used to ascertain that the third Monday in January is the most 'depressing' day of the year has been debunked as pseudoscience – and was initially baked up by a PR agency in 2005 as part of a press release for Sky Travel) there's little doubt that mid way through this month is dire.

In any normal year, you'd be contesting with the fact that the sparkle of Christmas has been tossed out with the tinsel and that the mornings are steeped in inky dark. In 2021, there's that – plus the prospect of reams more time spent in lockdown, shut off, physically, at least, from your loved ones.

So, what to do, this year, to try and assuage some of the bad vibes? Try the WH hour-by-hour Blue Monday Survival Guide, of course. Scroll on for science-backed advice to make you feel a little less downbeat.

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1 7am: Jog On
@barebiology

You’re pulling on your motivating pair of new leggings, when that little voice inside your head kicks in. 'Why don’t I just go for a run at lunch – or after work, even.' (You know you won’t).

Sixty-three percent of people make New Year’s resolutions and a whopping 80% break them by February. Which is why Olympian, and Performance and Wellness Coach, Leon Taylor has curated a five-step action plan, in association with Bare Biology, go help keep your goals on track. Today is the perfect day to road test it.

1. Expect life to get in the way.

2. Identify your curveballs – think of every little thing that might get in the way of you and your new habit. What are the kind of things that have stopped you in the past?

3. Use 'if-then' planning – how will you respond to each curveball when it appears? An example would be, 'If it’s raining outside and I’ve planned to run, then I will do a HIIT workout video on YouTube instead.'

4. Avoid the 'sod it' response – give yourself so many 'if-then' alternatives that saying “sod it” and giving up on your plans the minute something doesn’t go your way isn’t even an option.

5. Shake it off – of course, there’ll always be something that happens which you haven’t planned for. But don’t let that throw you back into old patterns. Instead, take yourself away from the situation and shake your whole body vigorously. It sounds crazy but the shaking really does interrupt that familiar behaviour pattern and can give you just the dose of perseverance you need.

2 8am: Scrub Up
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Maximise the feel-good opportunities of your morning routine to keep Blue Monday Blues at bay.

  1. Take a cold shower. Recommended by Beata Aleksandrowicz, international massage expert and founder of Pure Massage, increasing circulation can helps pick you up when you’re feeling down. Teach your body how to adapt to the cold water by gradually decreasing the temperature when you take your morning shower. Then alternate hot and cold water to boost your immune and circulatory systems. Energising.
  2. Ditch the plastic – and feel good about it. One rubbish truck worth of plastic ends up in our oceans every minute, so swap shampoo bottles for shampoo bars (it’s one of the 19 health trends of 2019, fyi). Those from Procoal (from £6.95, procoal.com) are 100% natural, vegan, and free from parabens and silicones – oh, and, they don’t come wrapped in any plastic
  3. Lube up. Nothing can contribute to a downer more than feeling uncomfortable and unhappy in your skin. The shower and shower oils from Re:Fresh (£16.45, naturalspafactory.com) are designed to alleviate that – formulated with Gotu Kola, known as the “herb of enlightenment” and scientifically proven to ease anxiety; plus commute-surviving uplifting oils from lemon peel, lime and rosemary.
3 9am: Break the Fast
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Fuel up as you mean to go on. Nutritionist Fiona Lawson has the ultimate breakfast suggestion for facing Blue Monday.

'The secret to mood-boosting eating is choosing foods that balance your blood sugar. Oats are a perfect example of this: they provide a low-GL form of carbohydrate, which means their energy is released slowly and steadily.

'This helps you to feel consistently energised, positively affecting your thoughts and emotions. Oats are also brimming with B vitamins, which help the body to manage stress appropriately, and the fibre in oats not only supports regular digestion, but it can feed the good bacteria in the gut - something increasingly shown in science to positively impact mood.' Try one of these porridge recipes.

4 10am: Drink up
@sensehealth

Don’t underestimate the potential of your mid-morning hydration break for banishing Blue Monday blues.

Accredited nutritionist at sense*, Dimitra Sentelidou, explains how to ramp yours up: 'Beetroot powder is a fantastic source of the chemical betaine anhydrous and the amino acid tryptophan, both of which have been shown to improve mood. Betaine is a chemical that occurs naturally in the body but is also found potently in beets. As well as this, in order for your body to manufacture serotonin, the neurotransmitter known as the 'happiness hormone,' it needs a sufficient supply of tryptophan.'

Sprinkle some in a smoothie and reap the benefits.

5 12pm: Have a mood-boosting lunch
plate of salmon fillet steak roasted with spices served with fresh salad with lime fruit and peppercorns on a wooden table, selective focus picnic fool healthy and organic food concept easter food
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The science of the precise impact of food on your mood is still young, but some things we do know. Namely, that omega 3 fatty acids are associated with good brain function. Need some lunch inspo? Try these matcha and sesame-crusted salmon recipe.

6 1pm: Smile
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This is perhaps the simplest thing you can do to banish Blue Monday blues: Smile. Recommended by life coach and behavioural expert Michelle Zelli, when you move your mouth upwards, science has proved that your mood will follow.

Zelli also suggests the below as quick-fix methods to try to boost your mood on Blue Monday:

  1. Phone a friend. Share what’s bothering you and then let it go.
  2. Do good to feel good. Do a Starbucks run and offer to buy a coffee for the person behind you in the queue.
  3. Nurture in nature. Research confirms that nature soaks up our negative vibes so take a walk outside and get present as you notice the beauty and shift your energy.
7 2pm: Love your Lobes
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Take a screen break for a few minutes of self-massage – Aleksandrowicz guarantees it will keep you feeling New Year tip top:

'Try this simple ear massage. We have several hundred pressure points in each ear related to different organs and structures of the body. Rub the ear lobes between your thumbs and index finger using rhythmical and dynamic strokes for 1-2 minutes. This will boost your mood in an instant.'

8 3pm: Make your gut happy
pov, miso soup, eating japanese food with soup spoon
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An imbalanced gut microbiome has been associated with low mood. Help restore order by filling up on pre- and probiotics.

Snacks to keep to hand this Blue Monday says Bio-Kult nutritional therapist Natalie Lamb:

Fermented foods such as a mug of hot miso, a glass of kombucha, sauerkraut or kimchi with some turkey on an oat cake, homemade yogurt or kefir with some fresh fruit, walnuts and seeds.

Foods high in the protein tryptophan, such as meat and poultry. Turkey is a great option if you have any left in the freezer from Christmas or you come across end-of-season deals in the supermarkets.

Omega-rich eats: make up a batch of nut butter, try chia, flax and hemp seed energy bites, or dip vegetable sticks into mackerel pate.

9 4pm: Light Up
@lumie.lights

The NHS estimates that around one in 15 people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the UK – and symptoms, which include low mood, lethargy and irritability, can increase around this time.

'Women aged 18-30 are particularly at risk,' says LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Pareena Patel. 'Even more so if they have a family history of depression, bipolar disease or SAD.'

We also all need around 30 minutes of bright light to our eyes every day for optimum mood – but it the winter that can be hard to achieve as what we need is roughly four times brighter than a well-lit office. So, plug in a light-therapy lamp such as the Lumie Vitamin L (£75, lumie.com) or Betterlife Healthcare Bright Light Mini Sad Light Box £55, betterlifehealthcare.com), instead.

10 5pm: Find a Pet
british shorthair cat lying on white table copy space
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According to the University of British Columbia, spending time around animals can lower stress levels and improve mood. And you don't need to have a pet yourself to benefit. Even watching coo-worthy clips on Instagram can have a positive impact. (Hello, @thedodo.)

11 7pm: Dinner's Served
@thefoodmedic

Can’t be Blue Monday bothered to cook? Toss together the below ingredients, recommended by dietitian Juliette Kellow, into a salad and have the ultimate mood-lifting meal in seconds.

Oily fish such as mackerel or salmon. 'These are one of the few foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D, a nutrient that helps the immune system function properly. In the spring and summer, we can make this vitamin in our body when skin is exposed to sunlight, but in the winter months, the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough to make vitamin D, with the result that many of us have low levels in our blood at this time of year. Plus, oily fish are rich in an omega-3 fat called DHA that’s vital for keeping our brain functioning well.'

Almonds. 'When cold-weather cravings kick-in, it’s easy to resort to sugary treats like chocolate and biscuits but adding a handful of chopped almonds (about 28g) to your dinner will deliver fibre, protein, niacin (vitamin B3), folate and iron, plus riboflavin (vitamin B2) and magnesium, all essential nutrients that contribute to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue.'

Clementines. 'These popular fruits are rich in vitamin C, which is vital for your immune system and helps reduce tiredness and fatigue. Better still, this nutrient helps your body absorb iron from plant foods, making it especially important if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. A lack of iron can make you feel weak and exhausted, even if you’re getting plenty of sleep.'

12 9pm: Soak it Up
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BEDTIME BATH SALTS kissthemoon.com
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Begin the bedtime wind-down with a warm bath filled with Kiss the Moon Dream Bedtime Bath Salts, made with the sleep-inducing blend of lavender, bergamot, cedarwood and chamomile essential oils.

13 10pm: Sleep Well
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Dream away Blue Monday and start tomorrow afresh with sleep expert at Dormeo, Phil Lawlor’s top bedtime tips:

1. Turn down the heat. 'The idea range for sleep is 16-18 degrees C.'

2. Switch off the lights. 'Light can keep the brain engaged so make your bedroom as dark as possible. This means shutting your blinds or curtains and possibly even using a sleep mask to shut out any natural or street light.'

3. Log off. 'Avoid using any devices with screens in the hours before bedtime, as the blue light they emit can be a sleep disruptor.'

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