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Experts discuss ways to beat winter blues amid ‘Blue Monday’

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The third Monday of January has been referred to as 'Blue Monday,’ which is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. Although that's been debunked as a myth, Taz Dhaliwal explains why this time of year can still be especially hard for some and what people can do to combat their blues – Jan 18, 2021

While the questionable science behind ‘Blue Monday’ — the third Monday in January — has been debunked, mental health experts say the combination of the aftermath of holiday expenses and winter weather can still be a tough time for many.

Throw in a global pandemic, and things can look even bleaker.

“I think a big part of it is the pressure we put on ourselves through our new year’s resolutions — that, ‘It’s going to be different this year.’ That, ‘We’re going to set goals this year that we’re going to achieve,'” said Dr. Sienna Caspar, an associate professor in the therapeutic recreation program at the University of Lethbridge.

Read more: ‘These are stressors that we go through any time of the year’: A look at how ‘Blue Monday’ began

She added that not being your worst critic can do wonders for your mental health.

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“Self-compassion… begins with mindfulness, which is a buzzword we hear a lot about, which is for good reason, but that mindfulness is really about developing a new relationship with that voice in your head that can be so critical, that can be so mean,” Caspar said.

It’s also a well-known fact exercise is imperative for good mental health, yet the hardest part can be finding the incentive to get your body moving.

“If you’re lacking in motivation and you’re lacking in energy, physical activity is often the last thing you want to do when you’re sort of not in a good mood and don’t have a lot of motivation,” said Dr. Jennifer Copeland, a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Lethbridge.

“But, at the same time, some physical activity is also something that will help, so it can be a tricky circle that people get into.”

Read more: How to beat the winter blues, according to a ‘happiness doctor’

She said despite the paradox, it’s about taking the first step, and starting out in small increments can help significantly.

“Even small amounts of physical activity can help. It doesn’t have to be an intensive workout, it doesn’t have to be running a marathon,” Copeland explained.

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“Small amount of light [and] intense activity can help with mood and overall energy levels.”

Copeland said there is one silver lining this year with the unseasonably mild winter in southern Alberta, which has the benefits of outdoor exercise and fresh air — something that’s scientifically been proven to boost people’s mood.