The Most Depressing Day of the Year

calendarEveryone has bad days, but you can expect January 21 to be the most depressing 24 hours of 2013, British research reveals. Why? The weather is dismal, your holiday high has faded, your New Year’s resolutions seem daunting, and you just opened your post-Christmas credit card statement. Plus, the next big thing you have to look forward to is Memorial Day grilling—a dark, cold 4 months away.

While we can’t work any meteorological magic, these strategies can help buoy you during the depressing stretch until spring.

Find Old Friends

After the parade of holiday parties, your normal social calendar may feel Dust Bowl bare. Fill the social gap by calling a buddy you haven’t talked to in years. And don’t worry about awkwardness: In a Rutgers study, men who reached out to once-close friends quickly reestablished their old rapport.

Foment a Resolution

Setting goals without a success strategy may just leave you feeling overwhelmed, says psychiatrist Normal Rosenthal, M.D., author of Winter Blues. Pledged to learn a language? Formulate a detailed plan to help you power forward: Sign up for an intensive course at a community college, watch the nightly news online in your target tongue, or find a foreign-language group in your area at meetup.com. For simple tips to help you reach your goals, check out our complete plans to help you Lose 20 Pounds, Be More Interesting, and Get Promoted in 2013.

debtSlash Your Debt

Looking at the minimum required payment on your credit card bill will likely reduce the amount you're willing to shell out each month, prolonging your time in the red, a recent Boston College study found. So before you even open your statement, calculate (and commit to) the maximum amount you can pay.

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partyPlan Your Social Calendar

Write down five things you’d like to do in 2013, suggests psychologist Cliff Arnall, who created the formula for the most depressing day of the year. Simply having something to look forward to lifts your mood and gives you a positive focus. Need suggestions? Try one of the challenges on Men’s Health’s Ultimate Fitness Bucket List.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

“Perfectionists are boring and way too stressful to hang out with,” Arnall says. (Thanks for putting that lightly.) That’s not all—a Canadian study found that perfectionists have a 51 percent higher risk of early death than people who didn’t exhibit perfectionist tendencies. The reason? The mountain of stress and anxiety that often goes along with perfectionism, the researchers explain. When you notice yourself trying to do everything perfectly, ask yourself this: What’s more important, to be perfect or to be happy? (Correct answer: Happiness, duh.)

light bulbLook into the Light

Low daylight can trigger seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs in the winter months. Sitting in front of a light that’s similar to outdoor light for 30 to 45 minutes of can guard against symptoms, says Janis Louise Anderson, Ph.D., a psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Try lamps from Verilux or NatureBright, who specialize in therapy lights. Use it in the morning, since bright light at night can disrupt your sleep hormones.

Sit Up Straighter

Slouching can lead to feelings of depression and low energy, according to a recent study in Biofeedback. Your move: Use the 20-20 rule. “Trying to sit up perfectly straight all day is impractical and will only tire you out,” says Alan Hedge, Ph.D., an ergonomics professor at Cornell University. Instead, every 20 minutes, stand for 20 seconds and stretch or shake things out.

Reminisce

Thinking back to specific happy times in your life could help ease depressive symptoms, says a recent study in Clinical Psychological Science. Daydream about your last camping trip with the guys, your epic post-college road trip, or your daughter’s first steps.

starbucksBuy Starbucks for a Coworker

Improving your mood could be as easy as making someone else happy. In a recent study that asked people to engage in three good things a day—helping with groceries, picking up coffee for a friend, or paying a compliment—94 percent of participants showed decreases in depressive symptoms. Random acts of kindness evoke positive thoughts and are an easy solution to quash negative feelings, researchers say.

DRINK THIS, NOT THAT! Which juice imposter has more sugar than a pack of Skittles? Find out the 20 Worst Drinks in America.

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Additional research by Margaret Niemiec, Madeline Haller, Cassie Shortsleeve, and Markham Heid

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