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How to Beat the January Blues

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

Let’s face it, November and December are exciting months and we are usually busy and generally having a good time. Now, these blue feelings which are a combination of the passing holiday season and the winter season creep in and start to effect our mood and health. Many us find ourselves caught off guard and feeling sad and blue throughout the month of January. This usually starts to be noticed in early January as many of us are returning to work or school post holiday and resuming the normal routines of our lives.

Gone is the Sparkle and Spice

Life can seem a little quiet compared to the last couple months where we were all in a flurry of preparations, travel and celebrations of major holidays. When those holidays are past, we can feel deflated, tired, lonely and even let down with the excitement and sparkle gone.

The decorations are down and our homes look “normal” or maybe even a little dull and plain. This is actually one of the reasons stores and marketers promote so many “white sales” during January. The brightness of white and other new colors help us retain the feelings we had with holiday lights and decorations.

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We’ve cleaned out the leftovers from the large meals and sweets replacing them with healthier options to support a New Year’s Resolution of eating better, perhaps losing weight or even just detoxing from the holidays. Dieting or starting a new challenge in your life to improve your health when you feel blue is really challenging and often sets us up for quick failure if you are an emotional eater.

Visitors have gone back to their homes and we’ve put away the Christmas cards and gifts. Our homes may feel empty or quieter than they have for several weeks making you feel lonely and blah.

Our children are returning to school routines of homework and studies. They are tired and it takes time to refocus them to their studies and get back on a regular sleeping schedule.

It’s Cold and Dark Outside

November and December can also be dark and cold months but we are less likely to notice it as much with our focus on the holidays. We typically use more lights in these months with decorations, candles and outdoor features that make the dark not seem so intimidating and encompassing. With the distraction of holidays gone however, the winter season starts to wear on our outlook and we start to notice how dark the days are. This can transfer to our feelings of feeling dark, bleak and sad.

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In January we really start to notice the lack of natural sunlight and long dark nights that prevent us from being outside as much as we normally would. We tend to stay in more and try to capture warmth through indoor lighting and fireplaces.

The cold temperatures also make it uncomfortable to be outside or at least more cumbersome to get outside with the layers of clothing, hats, gloves, and accessories necessary.

Depending on where you live, you may also have to deal with the work of managing snow and ice in order to function. I personally remember living in areas where I had to shovel a driveway and it was the by far the most miserable thing to ever have to do before you left to go to work. Talk about fun on top of fun!

January days also seem to have an endless supply of very gray skies that make us feel blue, down or even depressed.

The Weight of Resolutions and Goals

Complicating the feelings of blueness from post holiday excitement and winter weather is the pressure and stress we can feel from hefty goals we have set for this new year. Many of us will lose our focus on our resolutions within the first couple weeks of January but that’s not how we wanted it to go for sure.

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Leveraging the high excitement of the holidays, many of us see the calendar page turning to a new year as an opportunity to focus on specific goals. The most common goals people set are around health and diets including losing weight, eating healthier, eliminating or reducing a food or beverage from our diets. These types of goals while very positive can also be very stressful and frustrating resulting in giving up quickly or being setup for failure before they even begin.

How to Have a Better January

Acknowledge

Preparing yourself for the quiet and routine of January starts with accepting that the high of the holiday season is going to run out. At some point, we have to take down the decorations and go back to work, right? When we mentally acknowledge something is going to happen we can better equip ourselves mentally and physically for navigating through it in a more positive way.

We also need to acknowledge it will take us some time to adjust back to our familiar routines and activities. This may feel overwhelming and burdensome along the way but we can accept this return and begin to prepare ourselves to apply it.

Prepare

We can support our preparation by taking time to reflect on the holiday season and what we enjoyed the most, what we are grateful for and how this time made us feel. Journaling about that experience or simply meditating and reflecting on these experiences lets our emotions recall those feelings of happiness, fulfillment, and joy. That can help us through the times when things are quiet and more normal than we like.