Today – January 18, 2021 – is Blue Monday. It’s the name given to the day claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.
The third Monday in January has been given this title due to the accumulation of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and less money in the bank. With national lockdown in full force again, this and the current social distancing orders have left many of us feeling anxious and isolated.
Not having our normal routine, schedules and healthcare check-ups can make us feel uneasy. Periods of stress can affect regular functions of the brain such as memory, attention, thinking, mood and sleep. During these times it’s more important than ever to re-stimulate our mental growth and look after our brain health.
Make a conscious effort to name something you’re thankful for. Keeping positive is key during these unprecedented times – the only way we can get through this is together!
To share some top tips, we enlisted the help of the experts at Forest Healthcare.
Read and absorb
Processing written material, from the letters, words and sentences to the stories themselves, snaps the neurons to attention as they begin to transmit all the information.
This happens during the process of spoken language, but the elements of reading encourage the brain to work harder and better. When you are reading, you ultimately have time to think. This allows you to pause and absorb the information with comprehension. This is different to oral language, much of which can pass us by.
Eat more healthily
What you eat now, affects your brain later. This includes your ability to think, remember and process information. Your mind requires certain nutrients to stay healthy, and there is a lot of scientific evidence behind the impact of certain foods.
- Omega-3 fatty acids can help to build and repair brain cells. Oily fish is a great source of omega 3, and there are many different options such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring.,Try the delicious, simple recipe above!
- Antioxidants, such as Vitamin E in avocados, reduce cellular stress which is linked to brain ageing.
- Dark chocolate contains cacao, which contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.
- Other brain foods include berries, nuts, peanuts and eggs.
Monitor your alcohol intake
There is nothing wrong with having the recommended unit intake of alcohol, but it can be easy to exceed this during lockdown. Excessive consumption can affect how our brain processes information.
Our body’s response to alcohol depends on a variety of factors including age, gender, health and how often we drink. While some of us can recover quicker than others, for some, judgement can be impaired which may lead to poor decisions. It’s best to always keep an eye on our consumption.
Make time for sleep
Sleep is an important part of your daily routine. Ideally you spend one-third of your time doing it. When you’re lacking sleep, this can affect your whole state of mind. You might find yourself being clumsy and struggling to complete simple tasks.
So however much you are craving connection and distraction, don’t be tempted to stay up late watching TV or scrolling on social media. You need downtime.
A good quality sleep is important to help your brain work at full capacity when you’re awake. Sleep is vital for the neurons that you’ve been using all day to rest and repair themselves before the next day. Your brain and body stay active while you sleep, so it’s important to get the right amount of rest.
Resident sleep expert at Naturalmat organic mattresses, Christabel Majendie, explains how your brain can be affected by lack of sleep:
“During sleep, waste products are removed from the brain by a system called the glymphatic system which is ten times more active than during wakefulness.
To allow this to happen, brain cells shrink during sleep to increase the space between them so toxins can be flushed away more easily. This system removes a toxic protein called amyloid-beta.”
If you are following a good routine but still can’t sleep, don’t panic. You are not alone and there is lots of help available – here are just a few tips.
Do some writing exercises
In our digital age, writing has become a lost art. Writing benefits both our brain and body in many ways.
In comparison to typing, writing on paper feels tangible and real. When we don’t feel like talking to anyone, writing can be a way to express our voice and release our thoughts.
Journaling daily and writing down affirmations can help us to purge any fear while remembering achievements and looking to the future.
Another spin on this, is to try writing with our non-dominant hand. According to neurobiologist Lawrence Katz, this will strengthen your mind because it provides a challenge. Allowing ourselves to try and accomplish something outside our comfort zone is a great way to increase brain activity on Blue Monday.
Certified hypnotherapist Juan Carlos Gouveia, who delivers Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) via Zoom to clients around the world, adds his mental health tips:
Set out your morning routine
Deciding on a regular time to wake and complete a set of activities will help to frame your day in a positive way. Your list could include making your bed, re-hydrating your body, a gentle stretching routine or meditating.
By creating and sticking to a routine, you will be primed for the day ahead.
Be aware of how you’re talking to yourself
The way you speak to yourself and the words that you use can have an enormous impact on your mental wellbeing. Reframe your thoughts: instead of engaging in a negative cycle of thinking, try to be aware of it as if you were a detached observer
and question yourself.
This distance allows you to further understand that you are not your thoughts.
Live in the present
We spend a lot of time thinking about the past, whether that be regrets, disappointments or loss while also worrying about the future. It is easy to forget that the present is actually the only reality there is. The past is gone and the future isn’t here yet.
When you live in today and stop worrying about tomorrow, you can foster the capacity to notice the good things and appreciate them more.