Jump out of that post-christmas rut with these mental health tips.
For many, January can be a difficult time. Christmas is over and it's the beginning of a new year, which can come with as many great surprises as it can with bad ones.
Mental health can be defined as “a state of well-being in which [an] individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” (World Health Organisation, 2014)
So it's important to look after yourself, especially in this first month. Take extra time for self-care and ‘you’ time, do what makes you feel best and make sure not to let January get you down.
In light of that, here are some proactive mental health tips you can use to help you beat the January blues.
For some, journaling can feel like a weird experience. But keeping a diary, notebook, or log of your mental health can help you to subconsciously understand yourself more.
The simple act of writing down your thoughts, feelings, and emotions helps to bring them into reality so you can manage them in a more positive manner and gain a deeper understanding of your relationship with yourself.
For example, if you feel you are having a bad day, your plans aren't working out or you just aren't feeling up to it, writing down these experiences can help you to retrace your steps and figure out why you may be feeling this way.
Then once you begin to understand where you feel the day has gone wrong you can begin to identify any underlying issues that may have arisen and once you understand why this may be it can become easier to handle a difficult situation.
Remember, there is nothing more frightening than the unknown so discovering why you feel a certain way can help a lot.
It may still be cold in these post-Christmas months, perhaps the coldest it's been all winter, but that doesn't mean that you should always stay inside.
In fact, getting out and getting into nature, be it a park or forest, can be most beautiful this time of year with the barren trees and crisp leaves littering the paths on the forest floor.
Nature in itself can help us to feel happier and more in tune with ourselves as oxygen-rich environments can help improve brain function which can lead to deeper thought and a healthier outlook.
This is especially evident with the increasing urbanization of our planet in which there appears to be less and less access to nature.
Luckily for us Cumbrians, nature is a large part of our county and something which we pride ourselves on being a big part of.
However, if you find yourself stuck inside work, an office, a shop, or even at home you can always find a quiet spot of Cumbrian nature on your doorstep.
Chances are you had a lil’ tipple' over the Christmas holidays and rightly so! However, this can leave you feeling tired and set back from everyday life as alcohol is a depressant and can have profound effects on the brain and liver function.
In Cumbria, we are known to drink above the national average with “Alcohol consumption statistics indicate higher levels of consumption in Cumbria than national averages, with 31.7% of adults drinking over 14 units of alcohol per week. Cumbria also has a higher prevalence of binge drinking, lower abstinence rates, as well as higher alcohol sales compared to national statistics.” (Alcohol and drugs misuse in Cumbria, 2020)
This means it's especially important to understand the negative effect alcohol can have on our mental health and considering a ‘dry January’ may be a good way to see it in the new year.
Dry January is the UK’s month-long alcohol-free challenge. Started by the British charity Alcohol Change UK, the initiative seeks to raise awareness about dangerous alcohol consumption and they also provide tools to help you with this. Find out more here.
They found that 86% of participants who took the challenge saved money and 70% of the participants had better sleep as alcohol can cause insomnia.
So if you’re looking to improve your mental health, dry January may be a great place to start.
A New Hobby
A fantastic goal to set for yourself in the new year is to start a new hobby. Whether that be learning an instrument, starting a sport, or joining a social club.
Developing a new hobby can be great for your mental health as this allows your brain to experience something new, creating excitement and building new neural connections in your brain.
It can also help you to become more social and meet new people which can help break the cycle of loneliness as mental health and loneliness can often go hand in hand.
If you don’t know where to start it can be a good practice to check your local notice boards or Facebook groups for clubs to join.
As well as this, you can reach out to family and friends who are already participating in your new chosen hobby and ask them where you can start.
For example, learning guitar is a great place to start if you want to get into music as it's one of the most played instruments in the world followed by the piano, as noted by Creative Soul Music School.
A long practice with deep historical roots in many cultures, meditation has been proven to help with clarity and decision making if you practice it each day.
Mainly rooted in eastern culture, meditation (and by expansion yoga) was brought to the UK by many different cultures in the 1900s.
It’s a funny thought, to be still with no thoughts, but the object of meditation is to become calmer with yourself and the situations you find yourself in and it can be a very helpful tool to better your mental health.
There are many apps on the market today which help to facilitate meditation, but one of the key principles to remember is to find a quiet, safe space in which you can focus on a particular idea or thought and develop a deeper understanding of that idea.
There's no right or wrong way to meditate and for many, it's a very personal experience, which can also be why it's so hard to get into, but as long as you’re open to the notion of meditation, you’re already halfway there to being able to engage in this practice.
If you’re struggling with mental health it’s important you reach out for support, some organizations which can help with this include: