January can feel like a bit of a bleak time. The Christmas cheer is all but a faint, ghostly echo, and the decorations are gone, yet the cold, long nights continue.
To add to your despair, this month is also home to Blue Monday on January 15th - supposedly the most depressing day of the year.
BUT, there’s so much you can do to lighten the dark months of winter. Trying out something new can be a real boost, so here are a few ideas of what you can do to beat Blue Monday and keep feeling good throughout January.
You don’t need to have a high-tech camera to improve your photography skills anymore. Give yourself challenges and themes to photograph, like wildlife, buildings, or even something completely random like as many caravans as you can spot. Read up on different techniques or just get out there and see what you can capture. You might surprise yourself and if nothing else, it will get you out into the fresh air.
I’m not one for going gym crazy in January only to forget about it in February. The start of the year often brings beautifully crisp and sunny days, so it can be a great time to get out for some long walks in the fresh air. Exercise can make you feel better mentally and physically, plus it helps you to sleep better. It’s doesn’t have to be extreme to be beneficial, and there’s something revitalising about getting out into nature.
If you want to do something more sociable, then sign up to a new class or course. There’s loads out there from yoga to pottery, or crochet to foreign languages. It’s a great way to meet people and to try something new.
Why not spend the winter improving your cooking skills and widening your meal repertoire? Try some new recipes, using new, exciting ingredients. Maybe go to the library and borrow some recipe books – ones that you’ve never thought of trying before. You might be surprised by what you find and by what you enjoy eating. Forget the supermarket for once and head down to your local markets to pick up fresh fruit and veg, meat and fish, at great prices. Choose something new and challenge yourself to find a great recipe for it.
Boost your serotonin levels
Certain foods are said to boost your serotonin levels, which could in turn improve your mood and sense of wellbeing. Foods that could naturally help include eggs, cheese, salmon, pineapple, nuts and seeds. It’s worth a go – they’re healthy choices anyway, so why not?
There are plenty of places that could do with a few hours of your time. Many charities, hospitals, and conservation areas benefit from people giving their time to help them. Have a look around online, or call a charity that you’re interested in to see what you could do for them. By volunteering you’ll be helping others and that always feels good!
Start a book club
Getting a few people together once a month to talk about a book you’ve all read is a great excuse to socialise, and it also encourages you all to read more. Many people I know would love to read more than they currently do, and a book club could help to get reading higher up people’s to-do list.
Some books to read
Escaping through reading is one of my favourite things to do, and it’s a perfect way to spend a cold January day. Two of my favourite books are Atonement by Ian McEwan, and Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Other options include The Humans by Matt Haig (it will make you appreciate humanity - and dogs - all the more). There are also classics like Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, which is perfect for when the wind is howling at the door on a winter’s night. Have a look around online for other new recommended reads.
Create a space to live and relax in that's free from the clutter and debris of everyday life. Getting rid of things you don’t need, and creating clean space can make you feel much more comfortable and chilled out.
Jo Murricane is a freelance copywriter and blogger, based in Leeds. Read all about her food and lifestyle investigations on her blog, jo-blogs.co.uk.