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Our top mood boosters for banishing the January blues
January 16th 2017 / 0 comment
How does the GTG team chase the winter blues away? From yoga to ‘mindfoldness’, here’s how we give our mental health a helping hand
In 2005, UK psychologist Cliff Arnall calculated that the third Monday of the month of January to be the most depressing of the year. Now known as ‘Blue Monday,’ his formula took into account a mixture of factors including a lack of sunshine, debt, failed New Year’s resolutions and dwindling motivational levels - a combination which in his estimation, results in us feeling our most low.
True or not, feeling broke and blue isn’t confined to just January, however the cold weather and return to reality after the break can act as sure-fire catalysts. How do we keep the blues at bay? Here are our fail safe solutions.
Susannah Taylor, Editor-in-chief
“Apart from little things like lighting fires, having hot water bottles at night, wrapping myself in blankets on the sofa and drinking endless cups of tea (I think I was doing Hygge before Hygge existed), I am also practising yoga to lift me out of the January gloom. I can't actually put into words how much I'm loving learning it and I attend a class every Monday and Sunday as well as going to the gym a few times a week. I did a lot of yoga when I was pregnant with both my children and I took it up again last year after an 8 year break. 2016 was a very strange, upsetting and stressful year (as we all know), and every time I rolled out my mat, I felt a great sense of release - the thoughts running rampant through my mind would be long forgotten by the end of the class. Having gotten myself very fit over the past few years, I also feel I have come back to the mat feeling much stronger and very flexible, so it is an all-round pleasurable experience.
“I'm currently learning with two different teachers in Oxfordshire - one is a Hatha flow yogi, (www.nicolecroftyoga.com) a dynamic, fun and playful class and the other does Vinyasa flow plus a form of Power Yoga (www.alignedwith.com), which is a tough and exhilarating class I go to at Soho Farmhouse. The former beauty and health editor of Vogue and yoga expert Kathy Phillips told me once that yoga is all about finding a great teacher and these two are so different but equally wonderful and inspiring (I went on Nicole's retreat in May last year in Turkey and have been hooked ever since).
What I'm loving the most as a yoga rookie is mastering tricky positions (I've just learnt to do a headstand whoop!) and the sense of achievement that comes with that, as well as discovering the simplicity yet complexity of yoga, and I love the grace of the movement involved. I have a very overactive, creative brain, and yoga feels like a way of training it to be precisely in the moment, plus I'm learning about what my body can and can't do which is a constant learning process. Power Yoga is tough but an exhilarating workout (you can leave dripping in sweat) and we use our whole bodyweight to hold many positions, but I often leave on an endorphin high. I feel I'm getting stronger and braver all the time and on a more superficial level I have definition in my arms and shoulders that I never had from years of training in a gym. I always question my sanity as my alarm rings at 8 am on a Sunday morning, but when I roll out that mat I have a strange sense that it's precisely where I'm meant to be.”
Gemma Bellman, Managing Director
“It's easy to slip into a state of despair when January rolls around - taking the Christmas decorations down and fighting your way to work through the inevitable rail strikes in the blistering cold with no apparent let up in sight. Not fun.
“My fail safe mood booster for this notoriously dismal month however, is to start planning ahead. Whether it's buying yourself a new diary (sparkly stationery alone can get those endorphins flowing!), sorting through your digital calendar or just making a list - planning ahead for what you want to achieve, places you want to see, people you want to reconnect with, and generally making plans for a positive year ahead is sure to get you out of the doldrums and excited to get going. I'm not talking the predictable New Year’s resolutions you make in a drunken stupor as the clock strikes 12, but real, practical and progressive actions you want to take to get the most out of the clean sheet opportunity that lies in the year ahead. January can actually be a really exciting time of the year!”
Judy Johnson, Online Editor
“I’m going to be controversial (read: annoying) here and say that I’m having a pretty great January so far. The first month of the year is always a little different for me as I celebrate my birthday in the first week, so while everyone else groans about wishing it were summer I’m excited for a busy month of plans - plus, that fresh start feeling is always a bit of a buzz. After last year’s fear of turning 30, 2016 was, overall, positive (for me personally - let’s not talk about everything else that went down) and as I begin life as a 31-year-old I feel I’m in a far better state of mind.
“That said, I am doing things a little differently; I’m not ‘detoxing' and I’m certainly not going Dry (birthday bubbles are essential, no matter the month) but I have been changing my ways slightly to look after myself and my (mental) health. I’m booking things into the diary that I really want to do - another life drawing class and a night of Motown for a start - but not planning so much that I become overwhelmed; if I need time out and that means missing out, then so be it. It’s the little things, too, like keeping the house tidy (it’s sad but true, a tidy house really does give me a happy mind, especially if you live in a flatshare) and spending proper time with my family whenever I can. Attempting to teach my mum how to play pool on my birthday weekend is one of the highlights of my life, never mind January.
“I’ve also been reading and listening to some inspiring advice to give myself more of a can-do attitude - too often my brain says ‘I can’t’ when it could say ‘I’ll try’. As mentioned in our previous piece about ditching the stress at Christmas, I listened in to Emma G’s podcast over the holidays and one episode with hypnotherapist Marisa Peer was really motivational. Everything you want is there for the taking, so why not go get it in 2017? I’m trying to apply that mantra to everything in my life at the moment - from my finances to my social life and career, it’s up to me to make what I want happen (and to say no to the things I don’t). And no marketing concept called Blue Monday is going to stop me!”
Victoria Woodhall, Deputy Editor
“My mood boosters often involve my children (aged 9 and 13). The youngest especially is very much in the moment so a game of Battleships, Plop Trumps or an attempt at ‘straddle throne’ (a fun Acro Yoga partner pose, here’s how movementformodernlife.com) is guaranteed to stop my washing machine mind from churning and remind me what’s important. That and brushing my cat, who is normally pretty ungrateful but seems to take ridiculous delight in having his face brushed with wire bristles. Forget birdsong - cat’s purr is the ultimate in relaxation.
“Since reading Marie Kondo’s decluttering book Spark Joy, I have become a clothes-folding ninja - making the everyday mountain of washing generated by four people into something akin to meditative origami - mindfoldness, if you like. I know it shouldn’t, but a neatly folded pair of pants makes me feel that all is right with the world. Kondo has controversial ideas about what you should and shouldn’t hang on to, including throwing out things from your childhood (yikes!). You should only keep that old teddy if he sparks joy on a regular basis - and to that end she recommends putting memorabilia somewhere where it can be seen every day. That doesn’t have to mean on display, it could be in a cupboard you open every day. My old Tiny Tears, who thankfully no longer ‘drinks, cries and wets her nappy’ (I pulled her head off on day one to see how the mechanism worked thereby breaking all the tubes) now guards my jeans in my wardrobe. Whenever I see her she makes me smile to think that my nosiness (the reason I became a journalist) started so early on.
“I derive great joy too from from my Celtic and Co Sheepskin Slippers - like indoor Uggs they have the ‘oooh’ factor every time I wear them. And at the risk of sounding like a total granny, I have to add that a glass of champagne always does the trick.”
Sarah McGinnis, Art Editor
“If I'm honest, my current ‘mood booster' is drinking a glass of wine, hopping into bed as soon as I'm through the door and cocooning myself away from the cold. However comfy that is though, it's not very productive - and I'm supposed to be embarking on the healthy Jan vibe! I've really been struggling to get going in the mornings since winter has arrived and so I've been booking myself into barrecore at least 4 times a week to wake myself up and get my muscles shaking. I get such an endorphin hit from these classes, whether it be Signature or HIIT (that one's tough!!) and whatever time of day, I am sure to come out a lot more positive, happy and thoroughly worked out. Every class is consistently high in quality and every teacher is motivating for whatever your level - I can't get enough of Emily's classes - trust me, she will have you on a high when you leave the studio.
If I'm feeling a little stressed or tired, I have been mixing my barre classes up with Hot Yoga at Another Space, a stunning fitness studio with high quality yoga teachers that both raises your heart rate and leaves you feeling in a much better headspace. It's kind of like therapy for the stressed mind while working on your posture and flexibility all at the same time.
“I'm being a classic ‘January person’ here and trying to be healthy at the moment, so I've been trying The Super Elixir Nourishing Chocolate Protein Powder, £48, created by Elle MacPherson mixed with almond milk. This is one of the best chocolate substitutes I have found. It's vegan-friendly and helps to maintain blood sugar levels, combat stress and provide a healthy metabolism - it actually feels like a little indulgence. If I'm not feeling like exercising, I love a good bath using This Works, Energy Bank Bath Oil, £80.
"The scent is a mix of Geranium, Ylang Ylang and Bergamont - ever so relaxing and uplifts my mood instantly. Throw my current fave candle Jo Loves White Rose and Lemon Leaves, £55, into the mix and I'm onto a real winner.”
Anna Hunter, Senior Features Writer
“When I think of activities that boost my mood, I come away with a list that makes me look a bit like a caffeinated five year old, but here goes:
“Singing in a choir. Legit feel like I’m Lauren Hill in Sister Act. As soon as I belt something out I forget about the day in a good way, and when I return home I’m bouncing off the walls and communicating solely in song, which I’m sure is very annoying for my long suffering boyfriend, but damn it feels good.
“Hula hooping. Not tooting my own horn here but I found out when I attended a hula hoop workshop with my sister last year (so cool it hurts) that I am really good at it. I can keep a hoop in the air with the smallest of hip movements for a good twenty minutes. Niche, but slipping into a hoop gives me quite the high. Give it a try - you may be a secret circus pro.
“Coffee. I wasn’t a coffee drinker until fairly recently, but a swanky work coffee machine has given me a taste for hot black drinks, and while I’m not on the americano train daily, when I do have one it gives me a positive buzz in a perky, efficient way. More than two coffees and things start to go in the other direction, but the odd latte is a nice lift.
“Finally, my boyfriend impersonating a bird doing a mating dance from Planet Earth 2 never fails to crack me up.”
Ayesha Muttucumaru, Senior Features Writer
“At this time of year, it can be especially hard to dig yourself out of a New Year’s funk and like many people, I’ve found the return to normality a pretty big shock to the system. I’ve found myself tired all the time - overwhelming easily and stressing about the small stuff far too often. So, in order to elevate my energy levels, I’ve sought to keep things simple and try and make sleep a priority. To help give my bed a boost, I received possibly the greatest Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten - the new Dreamland Intelliheat electric blanket.
“I know what you’re thinking, ‘Woah Ayesha, slow down!’, but with extra heating at the bottom of its fleecy depths and super-fast warm up time, my toes have been left suitably toasty and my downbeat mood, melted to make my nights in the new nights out. Snuggling into my sheets at the end of a long day is something I unashamedly look forward to and when combined with Anna Kendrick’s new book, Scrappy Little Nobody, downloaded on my Kindle and an aura of post-class euphoria following a Psycle class with my favourite instructor, Kaya Cansfield, my blues have well and truly been put to bed.”
Alecka Micklewright, Commercial Director
“Since having a baby, exercising is a total indulgence for me as it means a morning off* (*runs out the door doing the can-can). It also means that I put all my energy into the class because it’s not everyday that I get the chance to do it. So, on a Saturday morning I take myself off to Psycle for an intense spinning session and then luxuriate in the shower afterwards. It is a very important, albeit sweaty, mood booster!
“My other tip would be getting organised! Wow, surely this is a sign that I’m in my 30s, but getting a good grip of both personal and professional areas of my life (all the things that you bury over Christmas, namely bank balance) gives me great comfort and helps me see more clearly, leaving space for other more important things. Which leaves me to my final mood booster which comes in the form of a blonde, blue eyed baby. Giving my 1 year old my undivided attention on a Friday gives me purpose. Because I work the rest of the week, having a full day with him feels like the biggest luxury (lunchtime food apocalypse and all) and I get so much out of it.”
Gemma Painter, Digital Marketing Manager
“It sounds totally cliché, and I almost hate myself for saying it because of how annoyingly cliché it is, but going to the gym is an amazing mood booster. Initially, it wasn't when I started out - it was more of a mood demon, but now I have reached a better level of fitness, I find that I go quite berserk afterwards; laughing and jumping around like an idiot and feeling really alive, not to mention proud of myself for putting in a good session.
“When I'm at home and feeling down however, I love to go to my bedroom and sit on our new kingsize bed with our new fluffy duvet and squishy mattress, put on some music and light a candle or two (Sanctuary and Diptyque are my favourites) and read either a magazine, a good book or the internet. It feels warm and cosy and is a safe place away from the noise and chaos of the rest of the home. It's really calming and I love it.
“But, when things are just goddamn awful and it's getting towards the end of the week and I NEED to indulge and treat myself, the only thing that will satisfy me is a Costa hot chocolate with all the trimmings (squirty cream, chocolate and marshmallows) or the ultimate choice - a chocolate chip Ben's Cookie (milk chocolate or white chocolate - I am not fussy). It's just the best way to say, OK life is sh*t at the moment but thank God there is a Heaven and it loves me!”
Lorna Patrick, Marketing Assistant
“Boosting my mood can come about in many ways, and I find it really important to take the time out of my day-to-day routine to do something that really does make me happy. At the moment, I've been trying to utilise my evenings instead of sinking into the routine of quickly making dinner and falling asleep swiftly on the sofa. My go-to afterwork activity at the moment is spinning and my absolute favourite is Psycle. 45 minutes of exercise with incredible music and inspiring instructors always leaves me feeling great and so inspired. I highly recommend Natalie as an instructor if you've not given it a go yet, she is so great at motivation and making sure you're spinning the right way.
“If I'm not spinning, I absolutely adore a night in. In fact, it’s become a bit of a ritual for me and always starts with making dinner. I absolutely love cooking and following a new recipe, generally anything by Jamie Oliver - I swear by his cookbooks. The process relaxes me and having something delicious out of it at the end that I can share with others really leaves me on a high. This is always followed by a cocktail of Netflix, burning a scented candle - the Neom Happiness Scented 3-Wick Candle, £45, is my go-to for when I'm in need of a boost - a pamper and a hot chocolate.
"Just taking time to do my everyday skincare routine or popping on a face mask - I'm currently loving using a couple of pumps of Sunday Riley's Good Genes Treatment, £85, mixed with a couple of pumps of the brand's Ceramic Slip Clay Cleanser, £35, for a quick radiance boost - and looking after myself on the outside always makes me feel so much better on the inside too.”