January 2019 brings the festive season to a close, the nights are dark and the weather is gloomy and cold. It seems like it’s been forever since payday and the short days can be difficult to cope with. But it’s not all bad news! January 2019 brings the New Year, new opportunities and fresh starts!

If you’ve been struggling with the January blues, here are some tips to give you the upper hand and have a positive start to the year.

Exercise

Exercise naturally lifts your spirits. When you are active your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These have a positive effect on your mood.

A brisk walk for 30 minutes is enough to get the blood pumping around the body and oxygen sent to your brain, resulting in increased function. Exercise makes you feel good physically and mentally especially if you combine it with the fresh air of the outdoors.

Dr Alan Cohen, a GP, said: “Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it.”

He also said that you should enjoy the exercise you do, which will help keep you motivated. So, if you can’t quite face the gym or going out for a run, maybe take up something new. Why not try a spinning class or Zumba with some friends? There are even trampolining fitness classes available.

Remember that what’s right for someone else might not work for you, so it’s all about trial and error to work out a routine that’s a good fit for your life.

Eat well

By making small dietary changes your alertness, energy and therefore enthusiasm can increase noticeably. For example, start your day off right with porridge for breakfast. The energy you get from eating porridge oats releases gradually throughout the day rather than spiking your energy levels with processed food. The latter inevitably results in your body crashing once this energy has worn off. Integrate small regular healthy meals into your daily diet to maintain energy and feel the benefits in the long term!

Plenty of fruit and veg will keep your body happier for longer than lots of processed foods. The NHS still recommends 5 portions a day as well as limiting foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

The key to a healthy diet is balance. Eating a wide variety of foods from different food groups in the right quantities can help you maintain a healthy weight and feel physically and mentally better.

Do you drink enough water? Staying hydrated is really important for your health so take stock of how much water you drink each day and up the amount if necessary. It might also be a good idea to cut back on caffeine and alcohol.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep deprivation is known to affect our emotional responses and our ability to cope with stress. After a few night’s poor sleep, you might find it difficult to concentrate and it can also have a negative effect on your mood. Prolonged periods of poor sleep can lead to quite serious health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease.

The solution doesn’t just lie with getting a good night’s sleep, sticking to regular sleep times is proven to have a considerable impact on our health.

If you’re looking at your phone or watching TV right before bed, this could be making it more difficult for your body to shut down and get to sleep. The type of light that is emitted from these screens affects the levels of melatonin in your body. Normally, your body would release melatonin a few hours before you sleep, however, the blue light from your phone screen can delay the release of the hormone and disrupting your body’s natural rhythms.

Turn off all electrical devices an hour before bedtime, get comfortable in bed and enjoy the energy that will ensue from your new sleep schedule.

Lighten up

Dark clouds and rain can have a negative effect on your mood, as can the longer days at this time of the year. Without adequate sunlight hitting the retina of our eyes, the chemical messages that are sent to the brain which regulate activities including appetite, energy levels and mood become slower.

We may be waiting for a sunny day to come along but when it strikes, take the opportunity to get yourself outside and enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer!

If you’re one of the many who leaves for work in the morning while it’s still dark and gets home after the sun has set, this lack of sunlight can be particularly difficult to remedy. In fact, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects 1 in 15 people in the UK.

We force our bodies to wake up before there is any natural light to help with the process naturally. Luckily, there are lights available that are designed to mimic natural light rather than artificial light. Some of these can be set to come on in the morning and help you wake up.

Socialising

When the January blues rear their head the first response may be to isolate yourself and avoid company. It might seem so much more inviting to stay curled up inside on your own with the TV. However, this can turn into a vicious cycle. Spend time with your family and friends, go out for a meal, go to the cinema or simply just go for a walk together. Get some plans together for the weekends or evenings so you have some things to look forward to.

If you work in an office or with colleagues, this is a great opportunity to socialise. Make sure you take 5-10 minutes every now and then to have a break, a cup of tea and a chat.

You could also consider volunteering. Volunteering gives you a great sense of reward by meeting and helping various people.

This is an extended version of an article published in Friday-Ad issue 2260 written by Gemma Johnson.

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