The 'January blues' is a real condition — here's why it happens and how you can combat it
- If you have been feeling down since the start of the new year, you are not alone.
- January blues are a real thing, and it can be caused by a number of different things.
- It is different to Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is brought on by a lack of sunlight.
We're quickly approaching the end of the second week of 2018 meaning the holiday season is well and truly over, and unless you're horribly disorganized, all the festive decorations will be boxed up and back in the attic.
The new year is the time for resolutions and new beginnings, but for many people, January brings about a lull in positivity. This is something known as the "January blues," and according to therapist Rosemary Sword, an author and developer of Time Perspective Therapy, it's very much a real condition.
"It's a form of depression that many people feel after the holidays and sometimes before," Sword told Business Insider. "In the US we call it the 'holiday blues' because it's not unusual for people to start feeling depressed and anxious during the holidays. Some Americans start feeling 'off' in mid to late November as our holidays begin during our Thanksgiving celebration."
In many ways, it makes sense that people don't feel the best at the beginning of the year, as the holidays are over and it's back to work for many of us. It's also the middle of winter, and the next holiday can feel like forever away.
Sword gave six main reasons for people feeling blue at the start of the year. Some of them are conscious, and others are unconscious adjustments in our mood.
1. Holidays are over, meaning it's back to work for many people. The festive decorations are all gone, and everything has returned to normal.
2. Family members and friends who you only see during the holidays are gone.
3. You may not have done everything you planned to over the break.
4. Drinking and eating in excess may have left you feeling sluggish, or you may have put on weight.
5. It's winter and the days are short, it's cold, and there's a lot of rain. Spring is coming but it won't be here for a couple of months.
6. Your New Year's resolutions may be proving hard to stick to, if you have kept them at all.
January or holiday blues are often situational, and it's a different condition to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
"Unlike the January blues, which is a situational depression and associated with the way we think and feel, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is clinical depression caused by personal biology," Sword said. "It's the way a person's body works and is a physiological response to fewer hours of sunlight during the winter months."
January blues tend to last a few weeks maximum, but people with SAD can be affected for months at a time. Some people might start feeling sluggish and depressed as soon as the days start to get short in autumn, and it can last until the following spring.
Some of the symptoms of SAD are difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much, an increase or decrease in appetite, low energy, being irritable or angry, difficulty remembering things, having a hard time handling situations, and a desire for isolation.
"When one experiences the January blues, we know it will pass and don't require medication," Sword said. "But for SAD sufferers, medication, such as an antidepressant, and light therapy — exposure to light to help the body cope with shorter days — may be prescribed."
There are things you can do to boost your mood
There are things you can do to bring yourself out of the January blues. Sword said there are a few simple ways to boost your mood, including recalling positive things you experienced over the holidays, and throughout your life.
You can also make plans for yourself to have a better year than the previous one. These plans can include self-improvement projects, being more sociable, or helping other people who are in need.
Finally, remind yourself it is fine to be hedonistic sometimes.
"Get out in nature, even if it's for a little while," Sword said. "Take a walk around the block and look for wildlife; enjoy a favorite meal with loved ones; call a friend or family member to check in; finish that project you started last summer, if you can. You are unique and valuable so enjoy your beautiful life."
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