Beat the Blue Monday blues
January 17th is, apparently, Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year.  Whether or not you believe it, you can choose to reframe it and boost our motivation levels into the bargain.  Here are our tips for a happy and memorable January.
When we expect something positive, our dopamine levels rise and help us focus and solve problems. We love to feel this rush of anticipation. When we don’t get what we expect, our dopamine levels fall and we can feel sad, frustrated or hard done by. 
To avoid the slump in January, try to find things to look forward to. These should be short and long-term rewards that come from setting yourself a mix of easy and hard goals. They must be novel, too, because the ‘same old thing’ doesn’t trigger a dopamine release.
For instance, on Sunday afternoons you might go for a coffee with a different friend. On Thursdays, you might take an hour at work to concentrate on your professional development. And every month, you could increase the pace or length of your exercise sessions.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s not the same as yesterday and that it’s rewarding for you. 
Set yourself up for success
Reflecting on what we missed out on in the last couple of years can be a powerful catalyst for change. But our January, resolutions may fail because of overambitious goals. Cue a rush of negativity, guilt and frustration.
So, start with small, simple tweaks.  A habit is an action that is completely automatic – one that doesn’t rely on willpower – and it takes time to form. To do it, try Fogg’s ‘Tiny Habits’ method:
- Specify a behaviour
- Make it easy (simple and tiny)
- Set a trigger
Re-think your wellbeing
Wherever you are in the world, compensating for indulgences in December tends to be a focus for January.
But for those in the northern hemisphere, winter can make us feel lethargic and low in mood. Instead of focusing on the dark evenings, remember that the days are getting longer. Use those few extra minutes of daylight to dose up on Vitamin D and some outdoor exercise.
If you’re in the southern hemisphere, you might be out and about more – so take care to protect yourself from sun damage. And stay hydrated!
Get creative with nutritious, seasonal food to keep your body and mind fuelled and ready to fend off bugs. With the holiday season over, this is also a perfect opportunity to attend to your mental health – relax, be mindful and practice gratitude.
Social distancing has made us re-think how we connect with each other. Whether it’s Zoom calls or picking up the phone, studies show that social connections are healthy for our bodies and our brains. 
So, instead of hibernating in January, use it to build on those relationships. If you’d rather meet new people and broaden your social circle, you might also consider volunteering.
The Mental Health Foundation says volunteering and fundraising gives people a sense of purpose and participation, reduces mortality, increases physical wellbeing, self-rated health and offers high life satisfaction.
January can be great
All in all, January doesn’t need to get you down. You can kick-start the year by creating experiences to look forward to. You can boost your motivation levels by making new habits you’re proud of. And stay well by connecting with people.
 Noam Shpancer, ‘Framing: Your Most Important and Least Recognized Daily Ment’. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy/201012/framing-your-most-important-and-least-recognized-daily-ment (accessed 14 January 2022).
 David Rock, ‘(Not So Great) Expectations’. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-work/200911/not-so-great-expectations (accessed 14 January 2022).
 Loretta Graziano Bruening: https://innermammalinstitute.org/ (accessed 14 January 2022).
 Matt Ragland, ‘The Science of Starting Small’. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-ragland/start-small_b_4042935.html (accessed 14 January 2022).
 B J Fogg. Available at: http://www.foggmethod.com/ (accessed 14 January 2022).
 The Mental Health Foundation, ‘Relationships in the 21st century’. Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/relationships-21st-century-forgotten-foundation-mental-health-and-wellbeing (accessed 14 January 2022).
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