If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, January can be a difficult time to keep motivated at work. The festive season already seems like a distant memory, with bad weather and increasing debt levels putting a stopper to any possible cheer. All these factors lead to the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help you turn the day around. Follow our top 5 tips and soon you’ll be skipping around the office instead of feeling blue.
1) Get moving
Study after study shows that exercise improves your mental and physical wellbeing. Even though exercise itself acts as a stressor, it reduces the harmful effects of other stressors and can build emotional resilience to stress. Overwhelmingly, the evidence shows that exercise helps your brain to function properly by increasing cerebral blood flow, which has positive effects on mental health, cognition and brain activity.
While the cold, wet weather may make a jog seem less than appealing, there are plenty of ways you can incorporate a little bit of movement into your work day. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Go outside and grab yourself a coffee from that great place down the street. Small steps can make big difference to your mood.
2) Declutter your workspace
Scientists have found that a cluttered environment may make it more difficult for us to focus. Researchers hypothesize that multiple objects compete for neural representation in the visual cortex – explaining why we may feel more unfocused when there’s a lot of clutter around us. Having an organized place for all your essentials can enable you to think more clearly at work; improving productivity and reducing stress levels.
Invest in some personal items to make your space feel more like home. Add a luscious green plant to purify the air or a framed photo of someone you love. If you're determined to book that dream holiday this year, keep a brochure on your desk. All these things can serve as a motivator for why you work hard at what you do.
If you’re hot desking, making your desk feel like home can be more of a challenge. Make your mark with a bold mug that can sit next your laptop and proudly declare that for today (at least) this is your space.
3) Cue the music (even the Blues)
Music can have a profound effect on your mood. Similarly to exercise, listening to music can improve blood flow, lower levels of stress-related hormones like cortisol, and ease pain. A 2015 review in The Lancet found that people who listened to music before, during, or after surgery experience less pain and anxiety compare to those who didn’t listen to music. Most astonishingly, they didn’t even need as much pain medication.
According to Kim Innes, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health, music seems to “selectively activate” neurochemical systems and brain structures associated with positive mood, emotion regulation, attention and memory in ways that promote beneficial changes. Even sad music can bring pleasure according to researchers at Durham University and the University of Jyväskylä. Musicologists looked at the emotional experiences of 2,436 people while listening to sad music and found that many described it as a enjoyable experience that lead to an improvement in mood.
4) Help others beat Blue Monday
Altruism has many personal benefits. Using MRI scans, multiple neuroscience studies have found that when we do something nice for someone else, their brains activate in regions that signal pleasure and reward.
Stuck for ideas on how to add a little altruism to your work day? Try the #kindnesschallenge. Here are five acts of kindness you can make during Blue Monday:
Give up your seat: Offer your seat to someone in a packed commuter train or standing-room-only meeting.
Pass it on: Pay for a stranger’s coffee or donate to charity.
Reconnect with someone: Drop an text or LinkedIn message to an old colleague you haven’t spent time with in a year or more.
Give an unexpected gift to a colleague: Bring in a book they mentioned they want to read or surprise them with their favorite pastry in the morning.
Thank someone who made a difference to your professional life: Whether a teacher, professor or mentor, let someone know how they helped you with your career.
Keep track of your acts of kindness to reinforce a positive association between work and those fuzzy feelings.
5) Find a new job that makes you happy
If all of the above fails, perhaps it’s time to rethink your job. If most days seems like Blue Monday, maybe your role is the root of the problem. Whether you have an unsupportive boss, an unclear path to promotion, or too long a commute, there are many valid reasons for feeling blue about your job.
Thankfully, January is a fantastic time to seek new employment. Hiring managers have their budgets sorted for the year and are eager to start recruiting new employees. So it’s worth updating your CV and having a browse for new jobs. Need help? Feel free to get in touch for personal career advice.