What is people’s least favorite month of the year? You guessed it. January.
More than any other time of year, people dread it. Short chilly days coupled with bills to pay, failed resolutions, and discarded Christmas trees on the sidewalk make it particularly bleak. While some are relieved the festivities are over, I know many who can’t stand the holidays and also dislike January. As one friend put it to me a few days ago, “It already feels like January 74th!” Another calls January, “the Monday of months.”
To make January a little bit better, you may benefit from overriding your natural inclination to behave like a bear. Instead of hibernating alone, make plans with a friend. Instead of staying indoors, bundle up and go outside. Instead of binge-watching a series, learn something new. Instead of dwelling on the past, look forward. Instead of immersing yourself in self-help, embrace other help.
Despite what pop culture tells us about always being ourselves, sometimes the best strategy is to be “un-you.” If you have a tendency to slouch towards demand-shielding and effort-sparing activities, ask yourself “what is the opposite of what I feel like doing right now?” Or, think of someone you admire and ask, “What would X do right now?” Alternatively, imagine you are giving advice to a friend—what would you recommend they do? Sometimes the best way to get closer to the version of ourselves we would like to be is by overriding our current self.
Here are 5 ways to lift your spirits this January:
1. Just say hi
Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Research shows that we way underestimate how much the simplest text or call means to our friends, family members and colleagues. They will feel better. So will you.
2. You are not a bear
Go outside. More time spent in outdoor light was associated with better mood outcomes, better quality sleep, and ease of wakening, according to a study of over 400,000 people.
3. Who do you appreciate?
Send a thank you note. There must be someone who you need to thank for something. Before you say, “Oh, they already know how grateful I am,” research shows this isn’t the case. Expressing thanks helps people sleep better, lowers stress and improves relationships.
4. Have an activity snack
Just a 10 minute stroll can make a difference in your mood. There is also evidence it protects against future depression and boosts energy which tends to lag during winter months.
5. Write a “done list” of things you have already accomplished
We are so good at beating ourselves up about things left undone. A “done list” will remind you of all that you actually do.
Bottom Line: While it may not be possible to turn January into the “Saturday of months,” it certainly is possible to make it a little brighter.
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman