In the northern hemisphere, where winters are usually dark and cold, January can be the toughest time of the year.
Despite this, there are things you can do to head off the “January blues”. Read on to discover five unexpected ways you could improve your wellbeing and mood so you can start the new year off with optimism.
1. Talk to strangers
Your mother might have warned you against it as a child, but talking to strangers can be an effective way of boosting your mood and increasing your overall life satisfaction. If you’re shy, you’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need to have lengthy conversations with others to experience the benefits.
Dr Esra Ascigil from Sabanci University near Istanbul studied 60,000 people across several different countries. She discovered that the people who spoke to strangers more frequently were happier and more satisfied with life.
Dr Ascigil explained: “Having a sense of belonging involves feeling like you are accepted and valued by other people – it is often considered a fundamental human need.”
So, if you’re feeling a bit lost, why not head out to the shops and say “good morning” to someone you’ve never met before? It could help more than you expect.
2. Embrace your creativity
Indulging in creative pastimes can be a wonderful way to anchor yourself in the present moment and let go of any stress you might be feeling. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, as long as it allows you a creative outlet that you can enjoy.
A few ideas include:
- Colouring in
- Playing online games and puzzles
Some of these activities have the added bonus of encouraging you to socialise with others who enjoy the activity, if you wish to. For example, taking a cooking class or joining a local club means you can experience the benefits of social connection, as you read about above, at the same time as the relaxing qualities of being creative.
3. Wrap up warm and head outside
When it’s cold and dreary outside, going for a walk might be the last thing on your mind. But studies have shown that going outside in the cold, particularly if you venture out to a muddy forest or park, can improve your mood.
It all comes down to the microbes released by the mud as you walk through it. As well as cheering you up, it could help to boost your immune system. A Finnish study in 2020 found that children who played on a natural forest floor caught fewer coughs and colds than children who played on a concrete playground.
So, relive your childhood by donning your wellies and your raincoat and having a good old stomp through those muddy puddles. You’ll be all smiles in no time.
4. Sing your heart out
Singing can provide a multitude of benefits to your mental health, and for some surprising reasons.
Of course, if you’re singing and dancing along to your favourite album, you’re moving your body and doing something you enjoy. But something even more fascinating might be happening at the same time.
Researchers have found that the vibrations that move through your body while you sing can have a calming effect on your nervous system. At the same time, your body releases endorphins, hormones that are associated with happiness.
So don’t restrict yourself to only singing in the shower – belt out your favourite songs as often as you can and notice your stress melting away.
5. Channel the power of negative thinking
You might be used to hearing advice that encourages you to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. But evidence is beginning to suggest that the opposite might be more effective in encouraging you to take action to improve your circumstances.
Psychologist Gabriele Oettingen found that thirsty people in a lab who were asked to imagine a glass of water were less energised and less likely to actually go and get themselves a glass of water to quench their thirst.
Indeed, other researchers have found that pessimism can be an effective motivator. Julie Norem and Nancy Cantor observed that pessimists often protect themselves from future disappointments. This led to them having a go at tasks that might otherwise have seemed too difficult.
So, by embracing a bit of pessimism and using it to fuel your desire for change, you could enjoy more success than your more optimistic peers.
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This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.