We are almost at the end of the first month of 2018. And while generally, I truly think that time flies faster and faster for every year that goes by, January has felt like a very long month indeed. And I am not alone in feeling this way. I have seen article after article discussing why January not only feels like the longest month of the year, but also the most depressing one. So I began to wonder: Is it really? And if so, why?
One reason for the January blues may simply be described as a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a mood disorder that often occurs during the darker winter months, leaving people feeling low, depressed, and tired. January is no exception to the winter blues, especially if you are living in the Northern Hemisphere. It can be dark when you wake up, and dark when you leave the office. The weather is cold and the amount of sun we are exposed to is minimal. It is therefore common to experience feelings of low mood and fatigue during the winter.
Another reason for these feelings that is more specific to January may be the anticlimactic atmosphere that is the end of the holiday season. Christmas is over. So is New Year’s Eve. Your resolutions are probably already broken. Work has started full-time again. You and everyone around you are financially worse off after all the festivities and the gift-giving of Christmas. While it is not unusual in life that great highs are followed by great lows (and vice versa), this could hit even harder in January when the natural, personal and social circumstances all come together for one challenging month.
The good news is that:
✓ you are not alone,
✓ these feelings are not permanent,
✓ and there is a solution!
Whether you just feel like January is dragging on forever, or you have an actual sense of depression, fatigue or sadness, there are several home-remedies that you can try to overcome it. Yes, mindfulness and meditation are definitely included!
- Take a break. Who says that you cannot take a break in January? Who says that the only way to start your year is to be better or work harder than before? The year has gained a number, but what else changed? Each day is followed by another day, and January 1st is no exception. Taking the pressure off this day and month can actually help you achieve more, by living your life one day at a time. And sometimes, January can be the perfect month for taking a day off, staying at home with a good book, going on holiday, or simply being.
- Ditch your resolutions. Yes, I am actually talking about breaking your resolutions instead of sticking to them. But this does not apply to all of them. If you have made a resolution to meditate more, go travelling this year, learn a new language, or take up a new hobby, then by all means stick to it! These are resolutions that are not likely to have failed yet, and therefore are unlikely to cause you stress. But if your resolution was to go on a juice detox, lose a certain amount of weight each week, give up drinking, read 100 pages in your book every day, or any other habit that you either want to start or break right away, then this might be just the thing that is causing you disappointment. So remove this stress that you have placed upon yourself and choose happiness instead.
- Look inside. Meditate, meditate, and meditate. Practice, practice, and practice some more. This can be done through formal meditation practice or a simple moment of reflection. When you experience feelings of sadness, low mood, lack of energy, or depression, don’t start analysing them or forcing them away. Sit with your feelings. Observe them without judgment. Notice where they occur in your body and direct your breath there. Most importantly, remind yourself that January, much like every other month, week, day, hour, minute, second and moment, does not last forever. Little by little, you may notice those feelings start to lessen.
- Try something new. If it is returning to your normal routine that makes you feel sad or unmotivated, break it up by taking up a new hobby, starting a new activity, or joining a social club. Don’t do it because you have to, because it is January, because it is a new year, or because it is one of your resolutions. Simply do something that makes you happy and something that you can do all year round. And if you are not happy coming back to some aspect of your life, remember that you have the power to change your circumstances, and discover the happiness within.
- Talk to someone. Finally, if it is more than a case of the January blues, there are plenty of professionals that you can talk to. Find a local therapist, counsellor or psychologist and book an appointment. Maybe you need a meditation retreat, maybe you need group therapy, or maybe you just need someone to talk to. And that’s ok! Your mental health should be a priority, any time of the year.