Next Monday, 16th January, is this year’s Blue Monday. It falls on the third Monday of January each year and is notoriously a time when individuals are most likely to feel low or depressed after the excitement and over-indulgence of Christmas and the pressure to keep to New Year’s resolutions.
January is often a difficult time of year – the days are cold and dark; money can be tight after too much spending during the festive period and it can feel like the excitement is over and there is little now to look forward to until the Spring sunshine is here (which feels a long way off!).
Children and teenagers can also find it difficult to readjust to school again after the fun of the holidays and parents may well begin to see the Monday blues creeping in at school drop off time too.
All in all, it can make for a dull and dismal start to the year!
The Samaritans, however, have coined a new term to mark this day, which we rather like here at The Youth Fairy – it is known as ‘Brew Monday.’
Instead, it is a day to share a cuppa with a friend or loved one and share in good conversation. As the Samaritans state, ‘we all have our good days and bad days and those aren’t for the calendar to decide… instead start a conversation over a brew! Reach out and connect with family, friends, colleagues and loved ones.’
We rather like the sound of this.
Part of improving our own and our children’s well-being is anticipating those times when we feel things might be a challenge and planning for them. Rather than dwelling on the supposed ‘Blue Monday,’ we can be proactive and do the things that lift our spirits, like spending time with others.
And of course, understanding why this time of year can be more difficult can help us too…
So, why do the dark and cold winter days affect our well-being in a negative way?
It’s all to do with our circadian rhythms – the natural internal process that influences our sleep and wake cycle. Our circadian rhythm is influenced by our environment. You will no doubt have heard of the effect of ‘blue light’ and the negative impact this can have on our sleep. Too much screen time an hour or less before bedtime can confuse our biological clock and adversely affect the release of Melatonin (the sleep hormone) in the brain, leading to a disrupted night’s sleep.
As much as possible, during these colder months, we want to be sleeping and waking in line with our natural circadian rhythm – and after late bedtimes and lie-ins over Christmas, many of us could do with a reset!
If your child has already worked with one of The Youth Fairies, you will already be well aware of the impact poor sleep can have on our overall feelings of well-being and our ability to feel more positive and optimistic. Although poor sleep is not the only factor that can lead us and our children to feel blue this Monday (or any day!), getting it right can make a HUGE difference to our overall health and happiness – it’s the catalyst that leads to many other positive changes.
So, how can you or your children reset those circadian rhythms and help get sleep back on track?
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. By doing this, you and your child are hitting RESET on your sleep cycle and your body and brain will adjust to those times. As hard as it is, this is important to stick to at the weekends too!
- Invest in a light therapy alarm. This can be particularly helpful if you or your child suffer from S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which can bring about feelings of depression in the darker winter months. Waking up to light that mimics the sunrise helps your body to adjust to the darker mornings, making it easier to induce feelings of wakefulness. Studies have shown they can have a positive impact on mood too.
- Dim the lights at least an hour before bedtime. Try to avoid harsh, bright lights as much as possible. Lamps and soft lighting help our brain to recognise it is time for sleep soon. Bright lights and blue lights (from screens and electronic devices) will interfere with the body’s natural rhythm.
- Give your body time to adjust. As with all things, a change of bed routine takes time to see the full effects. Aim to adjust yours or your child’s sleep/ wake routine by no more than 20 minutes at a time and be prepared that it can take weeks for the body to adjust to this new routine.
What other ways can I help tackle those January blues?
- Connect with others. Just as we highlighted earlier, spending time with family and friends, even if just over a cuppa can make a world of difference to our mood. The same is true for our children too, so consider arranging time for a play date or sleepover with friends.
- Get out in nature. Multiple studies have found the benefits being outside in nature can bring. Not only can it improve our mood but it can improve our immune system too. So, grab those wellies, pull on those winter coats and get out walking as a family.
- Plan things to look forward to as a family. Having things to look forward to is so important for our overall feelings of well-being. Whether it’s as simple as a spot of shopping, a day out at the park all together or something more extravagant, such as a holiday, get planning!
- Try a ‘jar of adventures.’ Ask each member of the household to join you in writing out a list of activities that you enjoy on separate pieces of paper and add them to the jar. Each week, month or whenever you fancy, take turns in pulling one from the jar. Pop it on the calendar as something you all get to enjoy together. This is not only a great way of reconnecting as a family, but the novelty of the activity boosts feelings of well-being and happiness.
- Consider starting a gratitude journal in the month of January. Practising gratitude may be one of those things you’ve read about here, there and everywhere – but it’s for a very good reason! Neuroscientists have found that spending time each day thinking about the things you’re grateful for – and writing them down – has the power to literally rewire your brain to think more positively. And when we change our thoughts, we change the way we feel. So, get your children involved in this too. Who knows, by the end of January, you may have all just started a brand new habit that will help your well-being for the months to come too!
For more information on the Samaritan’s Brew Monday, including how to set up your own Bew Monday event, visit: https://www.samaritans.org/support-us/campaign/brew-monday/
If you are looking for further support for your child, you can contact your nearest therapist at The Youth Fairy at: https://www.theyouthfairy.com/fairies/