Suffering from the post-Christmas January blues? Learn to love January by embracing it as a time to revive, relax and refresh your mind and body for the year ahead
Re-energise: embrace exercise
Exercise has long been linked with reducing stress and anxiety, releasing feelgood endorphins and even helping you sleep better – basically exactly what we need in January. A good trick, if you’re not naturally inclined to fitness, is to turn it into something you look forward to. First off, treat yourself to some new workout gear (looking the part makes you feel the part), then get creative. Roping in friends is a good idea to make it more fun – think along the lines of going for a socially distant run or brisk walk together or getting them to show you their Pilates or yoga moves over Zoom. Just make your fitness goal achievable so you have no excuses (may be save wild swimming for spring) and just do something. Anything. In simple terms: no pressure, enjoy it.
Relax: make time to chill
Yes, it’s good to get a fresh-air fix and get your body moving, but also relaxing has a big part to play in emerging from January feeling good. There’s a reason why animals hibernate in winter, so don’t always fight the instinct to curl up, get warm, batten down the hatches and slow down. OK, it’s not always possible to totally check out, in-between work, kids, life, BUT when you can, give into your inner desire to hibernate occasionally. If you can’t spend vast amounts of time hibernating, then make it a ritual. Get warm, light candles to surround yourself in a cosy glow, run a bath filled with delicious smelling essential oils and wrap yourself in something wonderful, such as a comforting dressing gown. Basically snuggle, cuddle and get cosy.
Refresh: get outdoors
There’s nothing more invigorating than a winter walk in the fresh air – it’s so good for your mental health and it can help with seasonal affective disorder. It’s the hit of daylight that’s key, as it ups levels of serotonin (your body’s very own feelgood chemical) and vitamin D, which help boost your mood and immune system. Plus, one Japanese study found that ‘forest bathing’ (basically walking through woods) decreases levels of stress hormones and increases intracellular anti-cancer proteins. So get outdoors when you can, just remember to wrap everyone up warm (no one moans harder than a cold, wet child): stock up on base layers such as women’s thermals, men’s thermals and kids’ thermals, plus cosy coats all round.
Rejuvenate: sleep better
Nearly half of adults in the UK admit they don’t get a decent night’s sleep; not great news when sleep has so many health benefits, from lowering stress to boosting our immune systems. A minimum of seven hours a night is recommended for an adult, so what do you do if you don’t feel like you’re getting enough? It could be your bedroom setup. Simple changes, from choosing the right pillow for your sleeping style to making sure you have the correct duvet for the time of year, all help. Another tip is practising good pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath filled with sleep-inducing essential oils – apparently the temperature drop our bodies experience when we get out of the bath mimics our natural cooling when we’re ready to fall asleep. Clever.
Recharge: eat yourself happy
After the indulgence of Christmas, a healthy diet is a great way to feel better come January – and it really doesn’t have to be complicated. “First, think about getting your five fruit and veg a day,” says M&S senior nutritionist Laura Street. “Choose wholegrains to add fibre, and a source of protein every day. Keep it varied – choosing seasonal fruit and veg can be a great way to get lots of different vitamins and minerals.” During chilly winter months, vitamin D is also important. Look out for our special vitamin D mushrooms and bread enriched with vitamin D in store. Another easy step to making healthy choices is to pick foods with the Eat Well sunflower on the pack – it’s been developed by our in-house nutritionists with guidance from the British Nutrition Foundation, and “makes following a healthy diet easy and delicious,” says Laura.
Words: Claire Askew