Everyone 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
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.
Slash 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.
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.)
Look 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.
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
Buy 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.