The third Monday in January is often dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, the so-called most depressing day of the year. Despite there not being a shred of credible evidence behind it, the myth of Blue Monday sadly persists to this day, contributing to damaging misconceptions about depression and trivialising an illness that can be life threatening, says Rachel Boyd, Information Manager for mental health charity, Mind
One in six people will experience depression during their life. It can be extremely debilitating with common symptoms including inability to sleep, seeing no point in the future, feeling disconnected from other people and experiencing suicidal thoughts.
While mental health problems like depression can happen at any time of the year there are of course certain things that may make people feel down at this time of year. Post-Christmas financial strains, broken New Year’s resolutions, bad weather and short daylight hours could all contribute to knocking you off your stride. The good news is that there are lots of small changes dads can make to improve or maintain good mental health.
Although the precise cause-and-effect relationship between different foods and moods has yet to be fully understood, many people have found they can link eating (or not eating) certain foods with how they feel. Foods and drinks that can often cause problems are those containing sugar or caffeine, as spikes in our intake in these can be detrimental to how we feel. For a healthy body and mind it can help to keep hydrated, eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and get enough protein in out diet. Keeping regular meal times, and choosing foods that release energy slowly, such as oats and unrefined wholegrains can also really help.
Being cooped up indoors or living a largely inactive lifestyle both at the office and on the sofa at home can have a knock on effect on mental health. Mind’s research found that nine in ten people who took part in green exercise activities (gardening, walking and outdoor exercise) said it improved their mood. Research also shows that outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
Getting physically fit and achieving personal goals boosts our confidence and self-esteem and helps combat feelings of hopelessness, which can often come over us when we’re feeling low. You don’t have to be getting in shape to swim across the channel or run an ultramarathon, even just going for a walk during your lunchbreak can make a real difference. If you’re struggling to find the motivation to get active, try our online quiz to help you find something that might work for you.
Sleep problems – even quite mild ones – can damage your wellbeing and quality of life. Too little sleep over a sustained period can leave you vulnerable to developing mental health problems, but there are lots of things that you can do to improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. These include making sure the light, temperature and sound level suits you. Cool, dark and quiet usually works. Electronic screens like TVs, computers and phones all stimulate your brain, making it hard to relax, so it’s best to switch them off in advance, to help you switch off. Cutting down your intake of caffeine, alcohol and sugary foods in the evening also helps as they can all disturb your sleep patterns.
4. Connecting with people
People are naturally social beings and most of us feel the need for rewarding social contact and relationships. Being sociable and connecting with other people is rewarding in its own right and can help significantly improve mental wellbeing. Perhaps even more importantly, building up a support network can also be vital for when you aren’t feeling so good. Real mates are there for you when you need them most, so drop them a text to meet up for a drink or go to the game together and get things off your chest.
5. Get support
If you find yourself struggling for more than a couple of weeks it’s really important to open up to someone you trust about support. You can also go to your GP to discuss how you’re feeling and they may well discuss treatment options with you as well as forms of local support. If you find it tough to open up about your mental health face to face or on the phone you may find it helpful to try Elefriends.co.uk, a supportive online community run by Mind where you can listen, share and be heard.
Last year Mind ambassador. Denise Welch, talked about her experience with mental health. The video also includes symptoms to look out for concerning mental health: