Changing the conversation about health

Seasonal mental health: How to turn the winter blues into blue-sky days

When a team of psychologists sat down over a decade ago to examine days when Britons might feel more susceptible to negative feelings, they came up with a formula to pin-point the most depressing day of the year.

Suggesting how an entire nation might feel on a certain day is a risky business but the man behind the formula, psychologist and life coach Dr Cliff Arnall (@CliffArnall on Twitter), says there is logical thinking as to why Blue Monday is real.

Brighter days ahead: winter can be tough on the soul but there are ways to better take care of your mental health when the nights are short and the weather is dreary

The third Monday in January is apparently a perfect storm of cold weather, financial strain from the festive season, failing at New Year’s resolutions and missing the fun of Christmas revelry.

After unleashing the term Blue Monday on the nation 15 years ago, Dr Arnall has since apologised and even joined the campaign on social media to #stopbluemonday, asking people to dig deep and look to the lighter side of life instead.

Take some exercise in the middle of the day. The combination of light, fresh air and physical exercise is a natural mood booster

His advice? “Whether embarking on a new career, meeting new friends, taking up a new hobby or booking a new adventure, January is actually a great time to make those big decisions for the year ahead.”

Here the College of Medicine picks expert tips sourced from the NHS and Mental Health charity Mind on how to remain positive if grey clouds descend. Share your own tips with us on Twitter: @collegeofmed and Instagram: collegeofmedicineuk

GET SOME EXERCISE: Even a brisk 10-minute walk can work wonders for the mood. Physical activity can relieve depression and anxiety

EAT WELL: Improving your diet may help to improve your mood, give you more energy and help you to think more clearly

SLEEP! Switch off electronic devices an hour before bedtime and avoid staying up late. Eight hours’ sleep can prove a tonic

Put the phone down and look up: try and keep screen time to a minimum, especially before bed to help promote better sleep

GET OUTDOORS: Enjoy the fresh air; tackle the garden, go for a stroll during your lunch hour, ride a bike…all great ways of fighting off the mood-dampening dark mornings/evenings

SEEK HELP: If daily life feels overwhelming consider speaking to your GP, or even friends and family. Don’t suffer alone

AVOID EXCESSIVE DRINKING: The answer is rarely in the bottom of the glass and a hangover is only likely to worsen your mental health

MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS: Combat loneliness by committing to a new class, for example a free/low-cost local walking group or an art class, as a way of widening your social circle

Making new connections – joining a class doing something you enjoy – and learning a new skill will improve positivity

DO SOMETHING KIND: Paying it forward is a brilliant mood enhancer; whether it’s baking a cake for a friend or calling on an elderly neighbour, everyone wins with kindness

BE MINDFUL: Taking time to live in the moment can help lift spirits. Press pause on the stresses of a busy life and try and be more aware of being in the present