Many of us are affected by the changing seasons, and as the weather gets colder and the days become shorter, this may negatively impact our mental health.

Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially if you are 65 or older, or if you have a long-term health condition.

Where to get help and advice from:

If you are 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups above, it's important to get medical help as soon as you feel unwell.

  • a pharmacy – pharmacists can give treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses and can tell you if you need to see a doctor
  • your GP – you may be able to speak to a GP online or over the phone, or go in for an appointment if they think you need to
  • NHS 111 – go to or call 111 if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do.

What is January Blues?

“January blues” is a social term used to denote the period after the festive seasons and the decline in mood; and in January, there is a day referred to as “Blue Monday”.

Although both terms describe the decline in mood in January, there is no scientific basis around this particular day or month (Mind, 2016).

However, certain factors may likely cause a decline in low mood during this period. For instance, factors such as:

  • A reduction in daylight hours - some individuals during this time may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
  • Financial worries (financial strain following Christmas).
  • Returning to work after a long break.
  • Lack of motivation to complete New Year Resolutions set.
  • Drinking and eating habits over the holiday period may result in feeling sluggish or gaining weight. 

For others, they may have experienced a challenging Christmas/New Year period before January because they were dealing with loneliness, loss or estrangement.

Similarly to depression, January blues can manifest with symptoms of low mood, sadness, lack of energy and motivation, anxiety and low libido.

However, the difference between January blues and depression is that January blues tend to last a few weeks maximum because of factors mentioned above. Some people find that establishing their routines post-holiday season lifts their mood.

As mentioned previously, there is no scientific basis for the January blues. Therefore, periods of low mood and depression can affect anyone at any time; as individual circumstances can affect emotional wellbeing at different times of the year.

In the UK, one in five adults aged 16 and above have experienced a form of depression (indicated by moderate to severe depressive symptoms) (ONS, 2021). Also, in the workplace, “1 in 6 workers will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time”. (McManus, Bebbington, Jenkins and Brugha, 2016).

These statistics demonstrate that depression is a serious condition and can affect people at any time of the year and day.

Talking to someone

Whether you are experiencing January Blues or depression, a helpful treatment for both is to discuss how you are feeling with others. If you would like to speak to a member of our team, contact us:

Keep active

Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.

Get outside

Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.

Eat healthily

A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Read more about healthy a balanced diet

Practicing mindfulness

Mindfulness can help us move from autopilot and become more aware of our present moments. It has been proven effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Peter Helmer, our experienced mindfulness practitoner runs a free weekly group

See your friends and family

It's been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression which comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It is more common in the winter months as we adjust to the change in season. While the exact causes of SAD are unclear, it’s often linked to the reduced amount of sunlight in winter.

Some of the symptoms of SAD include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it difficult to get up in the morning
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in eating habits

Symptoms will vary from one person to another, and for some the severity can significantly impact daily living.

Here is a short video looking at the  effects of SAD and provides some advice for those who may be struggling with the change in season.

If SAD affects you during the winter months, here are some small changes you could try to help improve your symptoms:

  • Make the most of natural light: Exposure to sunlight can help with boosting your mood and even a short daily walk can be beneficial. If you struggle to get out during the day, try working in bright conditions, for example sitting near a window.
  • Light therapy: Some people with SAD find that light therapy can help improve their mood considerably. This involves sitting by a special lamp called a light box, usually for around 30 minutes to an hour each morning.
  • Exercise: Exercise is shown to have a positive impact on both physical and mental health, and can help with symptoms of low mood and depression. More information on ways to keep fit.
  • Connect with others: Staying connected is essential for our wellbeing, and can help prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation. This can be especially difficult if we are working from home. 
  • Plan ahead: If your symptoms start to worsen, try to put things in place for these times. For example, re-arranging activities which you find stressful or making yourself a self-care box to use when things become more difficult.
  • Join a support group: Sharing your experience with others who know what it's like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable. SADA is the UK's only registered charity dedicated to SAD, find out more

Research has found a strong relationship between physical and mental health (Nabi et al., 2008). For instance, when we have better physical and mental health, we can continue to be active and participate in activities we enjoy, leading to a positive effect on our physical and psychological health (Ohrnberger, Fichrera & Sutton., 2017).

There are a number of ways to look after yourself physically this winter:

  • Get vaccinated -  Flu and Covid-19 boosters are available together. It’s important to note that many may experience anxiety about receiving vaccinations. This anxiety may be because of experiencing uncertainty, fear of side effects, needle phobia or something else. Visit our page on needle phobia for support. 
  • Quitting smoking or alcohol - it will have a positive impact on your physical and mental health. For instance, Drinkaware reported that cutting out alcohol will improve your energy levels and sleep and provide you with a clearer mind. Stopping smoking has been proven to boost your mental wellbeing. Visit our drug, alcohol and tobacco self-resource page.
  • Consider taking a vitamin D supplement - our bodies create vitamin D from sunlight and we need it for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. During the winter months the sun isn’t strong enough for our bodies to make vitamin D, and it’s difficult to get the amount we need from our diet. You might want to speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement for a little boost over winter.
  • Keep moving - not only is staying active essential for your general wellbeing and fitness, it also generates heat and helps to keep you warm. When you’re indoors, try not to sit still for more than an hour. If walking is difficult, you can do chair-based exercises while sitting or holding on to the back of a chair. Even moving your arms and legs and wiggling your toes can help you keep warm and well. 
  • Think about hand hygiene - good hand hygiene is a simple and easy way to help prevent spreading and catching colds and flu. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water and use tissues to cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze. It’s also a good idea to keep regularly used surfaces, such as the phone, door handles and counter tops clean.
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