How to beat the ‘January Blues’


Published: Wednesday 1st January 2014 by Paul Nickerson - Writer

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With Christmas behind us, January’s long nights,  short days, and biting weather can leave us feeling a bit blue.

In fact, NHS figures show symptoms of anxiety and depression rise  in January, for many reasons.

For some people it’s the hangover from the Christmas buzz and the unkind light of the season. For others it’s more complex.

The first thing to do if you’re feeling down over a long period or have symptoms of anxiety such as chest pains, head pain and insomnia is to see your GP.

Don’t worry, your doctor will understand, last year over 35% of referrals from GPs were for minor mental health issues.

Most of us suffer from mild depression sometime in our life, usually caused by a lack the serotonin in the brain, often called the ‘happiness chemical’.

As well as seeing your GP, there are a number of self-care options you can also do to help you along the way.


The NHS says poor nutrition may affect the level of serotonin in our brain. It’s best to cut back on foods made up of basic carbohydrates like white bread, biscuits and cakes and fill up on complex carbs like whole grains, nuts and pulses.

A balanced diet that includes these essential nutrients can make you feel happier and less tired.

Fish, some dairy products and fruits and vegetables are known to be low in GI (Glycaemic Index) so keep us on a more even keel by regulating our blood sugar level.

Healthier food is also good for our bodies, and may help us loose weight, which in itself can raise self esteem and general overall health.


After a well-deserved Christmas holiday, beginning a simple and realistic exercise plan can also help with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

If you’re not used to exercise, or have any health problems check with your doctor first.

Setting and achieving goals will give you a boost, whilst physical exertion will help release feel good endorphins into your blood stream, making you feel more calm and relaxed.

The NHS offers a great resource for starting and maintaining an exercise plan for all ages. Try this ‘couch to 5k plan’ from NHS Choices.

Be good to yourself

Setting our own goals in life with an achievable end means different things to everyone. In January it’s traditional to set some resolutions.


Mindfulness is a self-improvement technique that encourages people to focus on the here and now to reduce stress and anxiety.

The best way to describe it is that to be ‘mindful’ is to pay as much attention as life’s journey as its destination.

Mindfulness practitioners observed that most stress is caused by a person being in a place or  situation that they would like to be out of.

In their mind, they have a destination that they would like to reach, and until they do they will go on enduring stress.

This destination can be a physical place, or a certain career path, recognition, a perfect relationship, or material success.

Rather than say these things are not important, mindfulness says that in fact the here and now is as rewarding as obtaining such goals.

By focussing so much on the destination we don’t enjoy the journey. For some this can be years of putting off enjoying today, the world around you now and your situation in life.

There are many variations on the Mindfulness theme, and it has been proven as a therapy and accepted by the NHS.


Mention ‘mediation’ to some and they think of Buddhism or other Eastern Religions. However, in the past decade meditation has been used in some UK schools as a way of improving pupil’s behaviour and mental well being.

Meditation is a proven way to reduce panic and stress and over the long-term has a range of general health benefits.

Meditation can be hard to access, but a very basic meditation to start with is as follows:

1. Find a quiet place to relax. People are often cross-legged when meditating, but you can sit however you like as long as you keep your back straight.

2. Start by just listening to your breathing. Don’t try and breathe deeply, or do anything special, just observe your own breathing as if you were listening to another person.

3. Close your eyes and keep listening to your breath. Again, don’t attempt to change your breathing, just relax and slowly begin to feel your stomach moving in and out as you breath.

4. If other thoughts come into your mind, that’s okay, its bound to happen, but just try to come back to listening and feeling your breath.

5. Carry on for 5 minutes, just listening and feeling your breath go in, and then out. Then in again, and out. That’s it.

If you manage 5 minutes then you have just completed your first breathing meditation. Try doing this once or twice every day.

You can find more information on meditation here.

Further resources

NHS depression self assessment

Online anxiety help group 

Yoga to beat stress HEYToday

Published: Wednesday 1st January 2014 by Paul Nickerson - Writer

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