The third Monday of January (falling on the 18th in 2021) is considered to be the saddest day of the year.
‘Blue Monday’ itself actually stems from a marketing ploy to sell more holidays! In fact, anxiety and depression can happen at any time of the year, and mental health is totally subjective.
Despite this, for many, the middle of January is still a particularly tough time. It’s cold, and it’s grey. We’re left with little money left after the big expenditures at Christmas, and there are a load of New Year’s resolutions hanging over us, waiting to be broken…
And let’s face it, 2021 hasn’t jumped off to the best start, with another strict UK lockdown.
However, the beginning of the year can also be a wonderful time to relinquish worries from the past 12 months and launch into a new, positive attitude. It can be a time to build strength and resilience, so we can face upcoming challenges in a calmer, more grounded way.
Our last post focused on mindfulness practice, which can be an excellent tool for keeping the winter blues at bay and supporting healthy wellbeing all year round.
Here are a few more self-care techniques to boost your mood and make 2021 the best year yet, despite first appearances! These are also activities to get the kids involved with, too.
Benefits of journaling
Writing down your thoughts can be incredibly calming and cathartic. Keeping a journal is a great way to organise your feelings and process the ups and downs life throws at us.
A simple notepad and pen can give you space to completely offload in a non-judgmental way. Writing down whatever comes into your head is a great way to relieve stress.
As you write, you may also be surprised at what comes out! By processing your worries and decluttering your mind, journaling opens up space for fantastic new ideas and creativity.
It’s also a helpful way to set and achieve goals. If there’s something you want to do this year — whether it’s getting a promotion at work, potty training your toddler, or learning a new skill — writing it down can help you achieve it. In fact, studies show that people who vividly describe or picture their goals are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals.
Journaling for children
Encouraging children to write down their thoughts and feelings can help them learn emotional organisation. Even from a young age, very basic written expression can be beneficial.
As with adults, writing allows children to process and reflect on their day, explore what’s going on in the world around them, and ignite creativity.
Moreover, journaling is a good way for children to practise their reading and writing skills and improve their memory recall, grammar and spelling.
Children can write freely or use prompts to help them get started. There are even some guided journals available, such as the HappySelf Journal which comes in two age categories: Junior (ages 6 to 12) and age 12+.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.”— Robert Brault
‘Thank you’ really is a magical phrase.
Taking a moment each day to reflect on what you’re grateful for has been scientifically proven to positively impact wellbeing. It can improve your relationships, physical health, mental health, and self-esteem.
You could combine your gratitude practice with journaling by writing down three things you’re grateful for every day. A gratitude journal is something you can look back on any time you’re feeling sad or stuck, reminding you of all the beautiful things in your life.
If you don’t want to write it down, closing your eyes and actively thinking about things you’re grateful for is powerful too. You could do this before you go to bed, or first thing in the morning.
As well as thinking about gratitude, expressing thanks to others throughout the day can boost your happiness, and it’s likely to make them smile too! Seeing and hearing you saying ‘thanks’ can help your children develop gratitude, too.
More than manners
Encouraging your little ones to say ‘thank you’ is more than just a polite show of manners. At first, it might seem that telling your child to thank Grandma for the Christmas present is forcing them to go through the motions. However, regular thank-yous pave the way for deeper, genuine expressions of gratitude and acts of kindness.
You could even create a family gratitude project to get everyone involved. This could involve a whiteboard or pinboard, where each family member writes or draws something that they’re grateful for each day or week.
We all know that exercise is good for us! But it’s not just the impact on our physical bodies that makes working out so beneficial. Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety and relieve depression. Exercising in the morning can give you more energy and enthusiasm throughout the day, leading to more productive outputs.
The main thing is to find a mode of exercise that you enjoy. Whether that’s joining a dance class, practising yoga at home, going to the gym, or walking out in nature.
When you have young children, of course, carving out a regular exercise routine for yourself can be tricky. But even just going for a walk around the local park with your little one in the pushchair can have a significant impact on your mood. In fact, a study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.
There are also ways of making exercise a bonding experience for you and your kids — plus, it’ll keep them happy and healthy too. Check out these fun ways to exercise at home with a toddler or preschooler.
4. Sleep hygiene
Lack of sleep can lead to several health problems. It can lower your mood and leave you feeling run down. Studies suggest that insufficient sleep can alter your hormone levels, affecting your metabolism, appetite, and stress responses.
Of course, when you have a new baby, sleep deprivation becomes par for the course and those elusive 8 hours a night of sweet dreams are a distant memory…
However, lack of sleep can affect us all at any time. Whether you’re battling through the early months with a newborn, establishing bedtime routines with your defiant toddler, or just have periods of disturbed rest, there are things you can do to try and get a refreshing night’s rest.
It’s important to establish a wind-down routine. Try to avoid your phone and other devices for at least an hour before bed. Reading a few pages of a book, drinking chamomile tea, and taking an evening bath can help signal to your body that it’s time to rest.
If possible, going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time each morning gets your body into a habit. Setting your body clock makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up quickly when the time comes.
Even though your eyes are closed, having clutter and mess in your bedroom can be distracting and affect your sleep. Creating a calm, clean space to sleep in can help you get a better rest.
You want your room to be quiet, dark, and set to a comfortable temperature. Investing in a supportive mattress and high-quality pillows can make a big difference, too.
The bedroom environment can also affect how your baby sleeps. The Healthline Parenthood website has some great advice on creating a safe sleeping environment for your baby, and making sure your baby’s room is a comfortable temperature.
Food and drink
Eating late in the evening can raise your blood sugar levels and set your digestive system in motion. Your body gets confused and ends up being less prepared for sleeping. Try to avoid eating for at least two hours before you plan to sleep.
What you consume is also important. Your diet affects every part of your body and wellbeing, so it’s essential to eat balanced, healthy meals. Some foods, such as almonds, cherries and salmon, contain minerals and compounds that are thought to promote a healthy sleep cycle.
Though it might be tempting to have that third cup of coffee in the afternoon after a bad night’s sleep, an extra dose of caffeine late in the day can have a knock-on effect, leading to another night of compromised rest.
Try to avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch and keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. (Avoid drinking just before bed if you’re prone to getting up in the night for a wee, though).
You do you, hun
When trying to lead a happier, healthier life, remember that it’s all about finding what works for you and your family. Try not to feel pressured by everyone else’s habits, routines, and advice.
We hope 2021 brings you much joy, peace, and love!