Beat the Blue Monday blues

Can our tips help you through the Monday blues?

Written by Emerald Works
Published 18 January 2021
Beat the Blue Monday blues
January 18th is, apparently, Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year. [1] Whether or not you believe it, you can choose to reframe it and boost our motivation levels into the bargain. [2] Here are our tips for a happy and memorable January.

Expect happiness

The promise of catching up with friends and loved ones. Travelling. Hitting the shops again! Has there been a more anticipated year than 2021?

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. [3]

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 real or virtual 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. [4]

Set yourself up for success

Reflecting on what we missed out on in 2020 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. [5] 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:
  1. Specify a behaviour
  2. Make it easy (simple and tiny)
  3. Set a trigger
For example, you could eat an apple (not a biscuit) at the 3pm slump. [6] Your confidence and satisfaction will grow each time you succeed and soon it will be just what you do.


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.

Make connections

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. [7]

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.

Check out its virtual fundraising activities if you want to get going already.

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.



[1] Adam Lusher, ‘Blue Monday: what is the science behind the most miserable day of the year?’ Available at: (accessed 14 December 2020).

[2] Noam Shpancer, ‘Framing: Your Most Important and Least Recognized Daily Ment’. Available at: (accessed 14 December 2020).

[3] David Rock, ‘(Not So Great) Expectations’. Available at: (accessed 14 December 2020).

[4] Loretta Graziano Bruening: (accessed 14 December 2020).

[5] Matt Ragland, ‘The Science of Starting Small’. Available at: (accessed 14 December 2020).

[6] B J Fogg. Available at: (accessed 14 December 2020).

[7] The Mental Health Foundation, ‘Relationships in the 21st century’. Available at: (accessed 14 December 2020).

About the author

Emerald Works

Emerald Works

At Emerald Works, we’re committed to helping individuals and organizations around the world realize their full potential by using evidence-led learning solutions that work.

We work together to build learning cultures that empower people to bring about real change for real impact.

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