by Staff writer
Mindfulness techniques for Blue Monday
According to urban legend, the third Monday of January is, officially, the most depressing day of the year. This is due to a combination of dark nights, a fading of the Christmas buzz and the arrival of a range of bills and has led to the rather dramatic title of ‘Blue Monday’! Though the term was initially coined as part of a pseudo-scientific study, it’s comforting to know that there is no credible evidence to suggest that the third Monday of January is inherently more depressing than any other day of the year.
Despite this, it’s unavoidably true that the term has become a focal point for discussion around how to effectively deal with low mood in what really can be a common lull of emotional wellbeing during the dim depths of winter. As part of our contribution to the discourse, CBT therapist Alastair Barrie has provided a few simple tips that can be really quite effective at lifting your spirits if you are experiencing some trouble with your mental health this week.
- Getting outside
Exercise and fresh air are both well known to be helpful at lifting low mood. In combination, they can be surprisingly powerful. This could take the form of something as simple as a walk into town or a stroll around the local park. Even a brief change of scenery can be enough to clear away some of our new year blues. You could also leave the car at home for a local journey or try getting off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walking the rest of the way. Why not message a friend or family member and go out together? If you are unable to walk or just don’t feel like doing so, simply spending some quiet time outside gives your mind permission to begin to unclutter and de-stress.
Mindfulness is simply the process of focusing your perspective on what’s going on right here, right now. We do this by paying attention to what we can sense instead of what we are thinking about. So often we get so wrapped up in our thoughts that we don’t properly experience what is occurring in any given moment. You can be mindful at any moment in life and you don’t have to take extra time out of your day to practice it. All you have to do is focus attention on what you are currently seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling or smelling. You can have a mindful brew, a mindful shower or, as we previously mentioned, a mindful stroll. Essentially, mindfulness is enjoying ‘what is’ instead of worrying about ‘what if’. Even a momentary reprieve from getting lost in spiralling patterns of negativity can provide invaluable psychological respite.
The scientist Padesky demonstrated that developing gratitude can lead to ‘greater happiness, improvement in a variety of moods and even improved physical well-being’. If you’re experiencing low mood, there’s a good chance that you could easily write a list of negative things that you’re currently experiencing. Why not try writing down things which you appreciate instead? These could be things in the world, things in your life, things about yourself or things about others which you are grateful for. Spending time deliberately focusing on these can help shift a negative mindset to a more positive one. Gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring negative experiences or neglecting stressful but important priorities, only ‘balancing the scales’ and making sure that you have the whole picture, considering the positives as well as the negatives.
These techniques can be practiced by anyone who is struggling with poor emotional wellbeing to improve their daily experiences. However, if you are dealing with issues that are burdensome enough to still be leaving you unhappy and distressed even after giving these a try, it might be the case that clinical help is necessary to fully resolve the core problem.
The basics of mindfulness are expanded upon further in the application of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). If you feel that you or someone you know would benefit from this intervention, follow the links in this article to our website for more information on the model and our practitioners.