January is a hard month for a lot of people. Christmas is over, the holidays are done, and we’re facing weeks of long, cold nights. Whether you enjoy the festive season or not, it’s easy to experience January as a bit of a comedown.

It’s cold, it’s dark and there just seems to be less to look forward to. It’s no surprise that January is the peak month for S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder), a form of depression that is usually more severe in winter.

Whatever form they take, the January blues can be a real challenge. We’ve written this blog post to offer some expert advice on practical ways to get through the month. These are our seven tips on managing the January blues.

  1. Know that this is normal

The first thing to say is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up over feeling down in January. In fact, it’s really quite common. There’s a huge body of research showing that cold weather and reduced natural light can have an adverse effect on our mood. This in turn can cause or intensify depression.

It’s important to remind yourself that your feelings are normal. The question is how you deal with them and prevent them from becoming overwhelming. That’s what the rest of our tips should help with.

  1. Get outside and seek natural light

This is a huge one. Natural light has a significant effect on our mood, and a lack of it is thought to be one of the main causes of S.A.D. Daylight hours are reduced at this time of year, so it makes a lot of sense to get outside before it’s dark.

It could be something as simple as popping to the shops, or a brisk walk for its own sake. If you find a reason to spend even a little time outside each day, it can make a big difference.

  1. Stay healthy

“Health body, healthy mind” is an old-fashioned saying with a lot of truth to it. There’s overwhelming evidence by now that physical health affects mental health. Regular exercise gives routine and stimulates mood-boosting chemicals like serotonin. Staying in good condition improves self-esteem. These are just a handful of the benefits.

You don’t have to live the life of an Olympic athlete to experience these upsides. It’s enough to maintain a good, balanced diet with daily exercise that you’re comfortable with. At this time of year, it’s a good idea to combine this with our previous point and take the exercise outside. A daily run, a jog or even a walk in natural light can make a noticeable difference.

  1. See people

When it’s cold outside, it can be tempting to stay in all the time. But human connection is essential. Family, friends and a sense of community are a big factor in managing our moods and getting us through difficult times.

  1. Find something to look forward to

If you make sure you’ve got something to look forward to, that sense of anticipation can carry you through these cold, difficult months. This could be big or small – a new hobby or project, cooking a special meal, a short holiday … Really, what matters is the knock-on effect.

All these sorts of activities give pleasure, which is a good mood-booster in itself. But they also give you something to organise, which provides a sense of structure, purpose and achievement. It’s a virtuous circle. All you have to do is pick something achievable that you enjoy.

  1. Be wary of New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s resolutions can be a big positive, but let’s be honest – a huge number of them will go unfulfilled. This can have the knock-on effect of making us feel as if we’ve let ourselves down or failed. The solution is to be realistic about resolutions.

This relates to our previous suggestions about healthy living and finding a hobby. Lots of people make resolutions related to those points, which is great. But if they set overly ambitious targets, the risk of falling short is too high. It’s actually great to make a little progress in small steps, and it’s completely justified to feel a sense of fulfilment if you achieve that. More modest targets can keep that in perspective. It’s not too late to reconsider any resolutions you’ve made.

  1. Reach out if you need support

All these tips should help make January a little more manageable. But if it does become too much, you may need a little more help. There are lots of great support options out there, but waiting times for NHS mental health referrals are currently very long.

At Socium, we offer a full range of private mental health care. The benefit of this is that we can see you as soon as you need. If you’re finding it hard to get through January, we can offer a rapid-access 90-minute assessment with a registered mental health nurse (RMN). This is a chance to talk about what you’re going through with an expert who can help you find a way through this difficult month.

If you need ongoing support, there’s also our Check-In service. This involves a weekly call with an RMN, so that you’ve got regular guidance from an experienced professional.

January is hard for a lot of people, but there are ways of making it easier. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, you can get in touch via our contact page or call us +44 203 384 0007.