Three top tips to banish ‘Blue Monday’

Bupa UK Clinical Fellow
15 January 2018

Happy Blue Monday! Today is apparently calculated to be the most depressing day of the year. This was actually originally a gimmick made up by a travel company to convince people to book a holiday. But I’m sure you’d agree that the early dark nights, cold weather, post-Christmas dip in spirits and the tight finances can all contribute to feeling a bit low at this time of year.

Luckily, there’s a proven way to combat mild to moderate depressive symptoms, one that doesn’t involve therapies or treatments. It can be as simple as putting your trainers on and getting out of the door just for 10 minutes – it’s exercise!

Did you know that exercise is actually proven to trigger psychological benefits, even after just one session? It can prevent mild depression from getting worse, and reduce symptoms of anxiety. Here I’ll take you through some top tips to getting active and boosting your Blue Monday mood.

1. Pick something you love

Any type of exercise has the potential to make you feel happier, so choose something you enjoy. Walking up hills, yoga, lifting weights in the gym, Zumba or swimming … Anything that raises your heart rate is fine by us. But don’t stay stuck on the treadmill if you find it boring. Research has shown that you get the maximum psychological benefit from experiencing the maximum enjoyment during your workout, so go for whatever floats your boat.

2. Do it for 10 minutes

Public health guidelines say we should be doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week. This may seem like a lot, but the good news is that the positive effects of exercise are seen from doing only 10 minutes upwards. So you don’t have to be able to run a marathon – or even round the block – to start seeing the benefits. Our walk to run 5k programme can help to structure your training if you’re just getting started.

3. Think about how amazing it made you feel

Exercise is great for you – mind and body – and knowing the positive effects may make it even more effective. In trials, participants who’d been told their activity was good for them ended up having better physical outcomes. So this Blue Monday, concentrate on how wonderful you’ll feel when you’ve achieved your goal and get on out there!

The reasons that exercise helps your mood aren’t fully known. Psychological factors have been suggested, such as exercise distracting you from your worries, and increasing your feelings of confidence and motivation. Physical theories also include increasing levels of ‘happy’ neurotransmitters and endorphins in your brain, and raising your body temperature. Reasons aside, the highest level of scientific evidence possible, called a Cochrane review, found exercise as effective as psychological therapy and antidepressants in mild depression.

So go on, get a sweat on this Blue Monday. It’ll do much more than burn off the cheese and mince pies!

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Dr Eleanor Atkins
Bupa UK Clinical Fellow

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