According to a mathematical calculation, Monday 15 January is the most depressing day of the year. It’s around this time we are waiting for our post-Christmas pay-check, mourning the lack of sunlight and have lapsed in our resolutions.
I don’t know about you, but being told how I will feel and when makes me instantly rebel.
I am now determined to make Blue Monday a happy day. As a Spa Spy, I already have some tricks up my sleeve, so, here are my ten tips to beating the mid-winter blues.
1. Start the day with a smile
True, it’s still dark outside, but that’s not going to change. Instead of groaning and hitting snooze, wake up with a glorious top-to-toe stretch. Stretch the corners of your mouth upwards too. Studies show that smiling like you mean it can trick your brain into feeling happy.
2. Make time for a spa shower
If you look forward to your shower, you won’t mind leaving your duvet – especially if your product transports you to a Mediterranean holiday. Those lovely people at Temple Spa clearly read my mind. Their new Soul Therapy range comes in brilliant yellow packages with warming citrus-y essential oils redolent of summer, and includes a scrub, massage oil, mist, inhalation essence and candle.
A good body scrub opens the pores, enlivens the skin, and can even help reduce the appearance of cellulite. It’s a Wonderful Life Energising Shower Scrub (200ml £15) has essential oils of grapefruit, bergamot, ginger, lemon tea tree and water mint. It leaves skin silky smooth … and happy to part with the duvet.
3. DIY Massage
Winter skin is so dehydrated from icy winds and drying central heating, we Spa Spies love a rehydrating body oil at this time of year, especially ones with mood enhancing essential oils. They can feel more warming than a cream, especially when you massage them in with invigorating strokes: remember to work those shoulder knots too while you’re there.
If you need to heat your limbs on an icy cold day, try a home massage candle – light it before your shower, let the steam enhance the fragrance and emerge ready to apply the warm oils.
4. Spa on the commute
Commuting can be a mood-killer at the best of times, but with a little preparation, you can make it your me-time. Listen to your favourite music, a life-affirming podcast or self-help book such as Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. Apply an aromatherapy balm or rollerball oil to your wrist, and inhale. The Spa Spies have trialled some of our favourites here, including those by spa brands Neom, Aromatherapy Associates and Elemis.
The act of deep inhalation and exhalation also has a calming effect. Who knows, the aromas may spread and infect your fellow passengers with sunshine feelings. Do it throughout the day, whenever you need a pep. Do it again on the commute home.
5. Go for a lunchtime walk
While SAD is a serious medical condition, you could say we in Northern climes are all on the spectrum come winter. Studies have linked Vitamin D deficiency to depression, and since the biggest source of Vitamin D is sunshine, we could all do with making the most of what little sunshine we do have by popping outside at every opportunity. Wrap up warm for a regular lunchtime walk: it’ll boost circulation, serotonin and count towards your daily steps.
6. Lunch like it’s summer
In 2017, a clinical trial of 64 people with depression showed that a healthy Mediterranean diet improved their mood over 12 weeks. You know the drill – avoid junk food high in carbs and sugar as these put your insulin, hormones and blood sugars on a roller coaster. Go for whole grains, fibre, fruit, veg, unprocessed proteins (especially fish and poultry) and olive oil. Have chicken or fish salads with fruit and nut snacks mid-morning and afternoon.
7. Be kind
National Random Acts of Kindness Day is on February 17th, but why not bring it forward a month. Do something thoughtful for someone else… it’s not only good karma, research has shown that people who engage in kind acts become happier over time. Acts of kindness also create emotional warmth due to the release of oxytocin.
8. Have an afternoon spritz
At GSG HQ, The Spa Spies have a stock of mood-enhancing room sprays. These always appear at around 3pm, the post-lunch slump and are greeted with deep inhalations of pleasure. They can clear the brain fog and bring you into the here-and-now, as well as smelling delightfully spa.
9. Create your own Hygge space
You can’t change winter, but you can adjust your attitude to the season. The Danes got it right by creating the concept of Hygge. All those pics of cosy fires and woolly socks suddenly make the cold dark months as appealing as a shot of a white sandy beach – well, almost. If you don’t have a proper fire, you can ensure your home feels warm and inviting with scented candles and blankets. We wrote about home spa trends recently, and especially loved the idea of creating a ‘meditation nook’.
10 End with a spa bath
You began Blue Monday with a spa – prepare to end it with one too. This will give you something to look forward to all day. According to a 1997 study, the body temperature-drop after soaking in a bath for 20 minutes is more likely to put you in a deep sleep. Read about our favourite spa baths here.
A recent study found a link between lack of sleep and anxiety and depression. The bonus about winter is that which we complain about the most – its early darkness. That early fading light triggers our sleep hormone melatonin. Switch off all devices and don’t look at a screen an hour before bedtime, cosy up with a good book, and you are more likely to wake up rested and happy.