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Mind

5 tips to beat the January blues

The festive season is over and we’re facing the depths of winter.

Try not to be dispirited though – here are five ways to stay positive at the start of the year

1. Keep it light

At least one in 15 of us experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder’ or SAD. Being outdoors and making the most of any natural light is one of the best ways to counter SAD, along with exercise. Combine both with a brisk walk or jog outdoors. And see our other SAD-beating tips on our website.  

2. Make plans

Having things to look forward to is a great way to stop the blues from setting in. Booking a holiday or event can make you anticipate the future positively rather than dwell upon the past. And if a summer holiday feels too far away, make plans for the days or weeks ahead. Invite a friend or neighbour out for coffee or lunch, book tickets to the theatre, or plan a day out somewhere new.

3. Turn that frown upside down

What usually makes you smile or laugh? Is it a funny film, a particular comedian on TV, a humorous book or a phone chat with a cheerful friend? Whatever it is, indulge yourself. Laughter helps release endorphins – feel-good chemicals – which will lift your mood. According to scientists at the University of Maryland, laughing is also great for your heart.

4. Look after yourself

While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional duvet day or sofa afternoon, if you find that’s all you feel like doing it’s time to take action. Make sure you eat well rather than adopting unhealthy eating and drinking habits. After giving you an initial glucose burst, lots of carbs or sugary snacks can leave you feeling low in energy. Also, keep alcohol to sensible limits – or why not try Dry January? Alcohol is a depressant, and you may find your mood improves after cutting back.

5. Tackle your feelings

After Christmas and new year, any issues that we put to one side during the festive season might come back with a vengeance as life returns to its normal pattern. According to Professor Ed Watkins, director of the University of Exeter’s Mood Disorders Centre (MDC): “Depressed mood is often exacerbated by a perception of a gap between how someone wants things to be and how they actually are. These actual-ideal discrepancies are highlighted at this time of year.”

You may not be the only one feeling blue: the third Monday in January has been termed ‘blue Monday’ because it’s when this feeling is said to hit the nation. Although the research behind ‘blue Monday’ has since been debunked, it’s still a great time to talk openly and without stigma about mental health.

If you are already feeling blue, try to examine what is causing this feeling. If you can’t pinpoint the issue, or shake off your depression or anxiety, a talking therapy might help.

Further resources

You can learn more on our Mental Health Support info pages on anxietydepression and other topics, if you feel that you could be struggling. There, you can explore common symptoms and potential causes.

If you're a member of Benenden Health, you can call our Mental Health Helpline for support 24/7, from day one of your membership.

For more information about mindfulness online, visit the Mental Health Foundation or NHS Choices.