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10 tips on how to beat the January blues

The general mood can be lagging in the darkness of winter, but with a new year comes the opportunity of new beginnings. Take a positive step towards the life you’d like to lead, here’s 10 tips on how to get ahead with your winter wellness and beat the January blues.

1. Eat regular meals

New year, new you? No, not necessarily. Accept yourself and approach personal growth and goals with a kinder self-talk that cares for your mental wellbeing. Yes, we know how easy it is to overdo it with all the lovely food on offer over the holiday period – purple Quality Street anyone? But once the big day is over, try achievable goals such as keeping to your usual food routine, with plenty of fruit, veg and water. Aim not to snack between meals. Eating regularly and healthily will help keep stress at bay.

2. Sleep well

Sleep is vital for our wellbeing but with everything that’s been going on it has been hard to get the recommended seven hours of shut-eye a night. Long stretches of bad sleep can affect the way we function and make us feel terrible. So give yourself the best chance of a restful night, start by ditching the technology at least an hour before bedtime. Reading before lights out is a great way to switch your mind off from daily stresses. If you are lying awake in the darkness unable to sleep, get up and make a camomile tea, write a list of what’s bothering you and try again.

3. Make meaningful human connections

The quality of our human interactions heavily influences our mental health and emotional wellbeing. Doing simple things like being helpful to your neighbours, chatting with shop keepers, saying thank you to bus drivers and asking about the wellbeing of work colleagues really improves human connections. Although we can make great friends online, engaging with people in the real world strengthens bonds and is fulfilling. Especially if we learn to listen well and make eye contact.

4. Share the arts

Embrace the arts and share them with people you know. A song, a poem, a great book you’ve read, a free museum trip, an art gallery, a wonderful film (yes, we are looking at you Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story) or the latest must-watch TV show is even better shared. Common experiences stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation.

5. Write a diary

Meditation in word form. Clear your mind and express how you’re feeling by writing it all down in a journal. According to some mental health professionals, keeping a diary is one of the best ways to release mental blocks, understand your feelings and attain your aspirations. If you’re a stationery fan, invest in a beautiful notebook and aim to write for around 10-15 minutes a day. You can jot down things you’re grateful for, your hopes for the day or things you’re struggling with. It helps recognise your inner thoughts and needs and can build some happiness and positivity into your life.

6. Take up gardening

Flex those green fingers to improve your wellbeing. Even if you just have a windowsill, you can brighten the winter darkness with a bowl of beautiful flowers. At this time of year irises are perfect for injecting some much-needed colour into your view. If you buy some iris bulbs now and plant them in a pretty pot they will begin to bloom in approximately 10 weeks. The bulbs need to be planted 5cm deep and close together. Keep the container somewhere dark, cool and out of the rain outside. Bring them inside to flower – they can grow up to 6cm in 24 hours. The flowers are gently scented too. One they’re finished you can plant them in your garden or keep them somewhere to bring back inside next autumn.

7. Get outdoors

OK, so the weather isn’t the greatest in the UK at this time of year, however, fresh air has higher levels of oxygen than indoor air. And more oxygen is good for your lungs, blood pressure, circulation and heart rate so it makes sense to get outside and breathe it all in. A winter walk is the best way of getting out and about – we have some great walking suggestions. To entice the kids along too, make it fun with our winter scavenger hunt. Research has shown that adults who spend two hours a week in green space for recreational activity have better self-reported health and wellbeing than those who do not. This doesn’t always mean walking, forest bathing is a thing too, just head to your nearest nature spot and enjoy.

8. Pay it forward

Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by creating positive feelings and a sense of reward, giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth. Paying it forward is the random act of doing something kind for someone who hasn’t done anything for you. This isn’t a new concept, appearing in a book by Lily Hardy Hammond called In the Garden of Delight in 1916. When the world can seem increasingly bleak, an act of kindness can make us feel more human. If you have ever taken part in a charitable event or given money to someone in need, you know how good it feels.

Find out more about our Christmas appeal.

9. Seek out small pleasures

Sneaking a few pages of a book on a comfy sofa before you start making dinner. Sending a card through the post instead of an email. Surprising a friend with FaceTime instead of a text. Cuddling up with your pet and stroking their soft fur. Finding joy in the little things and being able to recognise it when you feel it, brings a lot of happiness.

On a sidenote, the book Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers is a super read and a great escape.

10. Book a holiday

We all need something to look forward to and booking a holiday can give you an overall sense of positivity. Planning what you can do once there, thinking of what you will pack and having something exciting on the horizon can give fresh motivation to keep life moving forward. Studies have found that after returning from holiday, travellers feel well-rested, in a better mood and less anxious. What are you waiting for? Check out our winter wonders and get booking.

Photo credit:Sebastian / Adobe Stock

Written by Jo Avery

Jo works in YHA's communications team, writing about travel and adventures for all. She loves curling up with a good book and a large mug of tea, ambling through wheat fields in Derbyshire with her family and dog and holidaying beside the seaside.

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