Blue Monday is back again and you’re going to be told that it’s the most depressing day of the year. The good thing is, you don’t have to give in to the negativity.
One thing that might help with fighting back is knowing that the concept of a Monday in January being a big downer was created by Sky Travel, based on research aimed to help them to analyse when people are more likely to book their holidays. Many factors come into that equation, such as the length of time since Christmas, how long it might have taken to give up on New Year’s resolutions, an increase in debt, loss of motivation, a need to take action and weather conditions.
But it’s also worth remembering that, as simple as it may sound, the year is much bigger than one day.
Many people doing dry January and spreading the word on social media may have seen #DontBottleItUp in the same post. Communication is a huge part of wellbeing. Many studies have shown that men are less likely to talk about mental health and wellbeing and less likely to seek help. In fact, suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35.
Organisations’ approaches to wellbeing always feature in our yearly Global Perspectives and HR Reflections research, and we have created lots of tips to approach workday wellness from those studies. But what about when you’re not at work? When you’re surrounded by inspirational quotes and so-and-so doing this and that on social media? Or fighting your way through another commute, coming in in the dark and going home in the same? It can sometimes be quite isolating, and feel like you’re not keeping up.
While it might be Blue Monday, we all have ways that we tackle our own wellbeing, whether it’s something we actively think about (“Oh, I just play this sport/instrument every once in a while, always have”) or not. So a few of our team here at ORC International have shared their ways to up the wellbeing and battle the blues, every day.
Taking time to talk
I’d say that lunchtime walks, where I ring up a close friend (sometimes my partner or parents), are how I keep the blues away. Living by myself can get quite lonely if all I do is work and play video games, so catching up with people helps a lot. I also do my best thinking when talking things through with others, so it helps me reflect. Whilst it’s not possible every day due to work demands, I try and get out for at least half an hour, and I come back feeling happier and with a sense of perspective. As a guy in a world where socialisation and social media stack the deck against being emotionally vulnerable in relationships (especially with male friends), I find battling through and building these relationships is necessary for my long term wellbeing when things get tough.
Jordan Saxby, Employee Research Manager
Raise your voice
I sing in a choir every week. I am not a great singer, but singing feel good songs in a large group is a great way of reducing stress and boosting wellbeing. Previous studies have found that a group of singers actually synchronise their heartbeats as they sing in a choir, and that singing can boost your mental health.
Kate Pritchard, Director
Release the pressure
One of my passions is following Man Utd, love them or hate them – given their history you have to respect them.
Part of the joy of following a team like Utd is that they never do things the easy way and your emotions can flip in a matter of moments. For example, the 1999 European Cup Final where Oli scored the winner deep into injury time as Utd came from behind to win the greatest prize in club football.
Again in 2008 (with one very expensive trip to Moscow final) emotions flipped a number of times as Ronaldo missed his penalty. Whilst John Terry was walking to the spot all I could feel was that deep sinking feeling, but instead of a long tedious journey home, he manged to carve himself into history with Utd fans favourite slip of all time.
Even the game yesterday against Liverpool (although not to the same extent), there were similar emotions. Utd were behind with just a few minutes remaining and a cloud of frustration and disappointment was hovering over the stadium. When Utd finally scored, the noise was immense as you felt the release and atmosphere change.
I have had many blue Mondays from football, and in some ways football fans are a strange breed. But we win and lose together, remembering unless you have felt the pain, you cannot fully appreciate the good times either. Something to take into life as a whole.
Phil Brooks, Research Director, Financial Services
Switching off and going for a walk
I am clumsy and I bruise like a peach. So when I stretch my legs I can’t be on emails, on Facebook, or texting unless I want to find myself walking into the river, or into lampposts… Going for a walk not only gives me a chance to look around me, and observe the changing of seasons, but switch off and get some space.
Alice Streatfeild, Employee Research Director
Wake up earlier. Read more.
I started waking up at 5AM every day a little over two years ago, and it completely changed my life. This one change helped me stop recurring feelings of stress and anxiety and ultimately helped me start and finish huge projects I would never have contemplated doing before. I never thought of myself as a morning person, but by making just a few changes to my daily routine I was able to completely shift habits I’d developed over 20+ years. I use the time to meditate, read, exercise and plan out the day ahead.
I try to read (or listen to) at least one book per week. This may seem like a lot to some of you, or not a lot to others, but it’s something that has made a huge difference in shifting my mind-set away from negative self-talk, and it has expanded my mind greatly. I also try to read a variety of different types of books in different genres. I tend to shift between non-fiction and fiction books, and I have a special interest in learning about historic figures. Too often, people get stuck watching Netflix or television or some clip on social media with millions of views. Unfortunately, living in this social media echo chamber means we very rarely have the chance to learn things that fall outside of what is “trending right now”. We forget to think for ourselves and learn for ourselves. I’d urge people to pick up a book and turn off the TV for a night. They’ll notice a difference immediately.
McVal Osborne, Associate Director, Customer Strategy and Technology
I joined a boxercise class last year, it’s great exercise, really high intensity and also a fantastic stress reliever after a busy day! As a busy working mum with two young children, it’s also a nice way to get some “me” time!
Rebecca Fontana, Employee Research Manager
A stitch for mind
When I was little my nan and my mum showed me how to knit. Well, I always thought that casting on and off were some sort of dark art so they would have to start and finish for me, but it’s something I really enjoyed and forgot about until just recently. Inspired by my nan’s 90th birthday (because what does a 90 year old want?) I thought I would take up the needles again and make her something. I still needed my mum’s help at the beginning and end, but my nan loves her blanket – or so she says. Since then I’ve learned how to do lots of different stitches and through the power of YouTube have managed to work out how to cast on and off myself. Now I knit every day, even if I only have time for a couple of rows. I find that it gives me time to slow my mind down and relax, and while it still might take me some time to complete projects, I’m always progressing.
I also started a Day Zero Project list of 103 things to do before I’m 40 (I couldn’t stop at 101). So far I’ve ticked off 9 of them, and through posting my list on social media a lot of my friends have said they’d like to join in on some of what I want to do. A few of the 103 are things that I will need to save up for and will probably be closer to the final days of my 39th year, but some are smaller, like reading the top 100 books on the BBC Big Read and watching all the Studio Ghibli films, and I always feel like I’m progressing through something that I want to do every time I tick something off. One of my 103 was to learn how to knit something other than a scarf or blanket, and the sense of achievement I had when I finished knitting a hat was probably about equal to collecting my degree.
Emma Batrick, Copywriter
Pound the pavement
Running is the perfect antidote to stress for me. It might sometimes be hard to get myself out of the door, particularly if it is chucking it down with rain or frosty underfoot, but once I am out pushing my body physically helps to relieve the mental pressure that builds up during the day. The endorphin rush I get at the end of a run keeps me happy for hours!
Lindsey Armstrong, Employee Research Associate Director
An active soundtrack
I play softball and have been doing for a few years now. I started playing when I was at University and joined an indoor league. It’s a great way to keep active, make new friends, have fun and of course few drinks along the way! Through playing softball I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Prague and take part in a charity tournament, which was one of my personal highlights of 2016.
Another hobby that I enjoy is producing music. I’ve been doing this for a number of years and just love the idea of putting a song together. I got into music production from friends I knew at school as well as studying music at school and at a local music college. The idea of being part of the creative process of making a song does help with combating the blues.
Michael Asiedu, Help Desk Support Technician
What are your ways of keeping well? Let us know!