January blues, it’s a term we’re all familiar with, but how does it actually affect us?
It’s natural to feel a little deflated now that the festive season is over. Cold weather, strict budgets and rigorous diets are enough to rile even the most positive people up, but for some of us, the first few months of the year can be especially difficult and can lead to low moods and feelings of depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a type of depression that affects people throughout winter, according to the NHS. The symptoms are the same as depression, fatigue, a low mood and a disconnection with daily life, yet the pattern of symptoms occurs at the same time every year, becoming the most severe in January and February.
While the exact cause of SAD hasn’t been proven, it is thought to be triggered by a reduction in the amount of sunlight an individual is exposed to during the shorter days of the year. Light stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which controls mood, appetite and sleep. A lack of light can affect how the hypothalamus produces brain chemicals such as melatonin and serotonin, which regulate mood and sleep. Therefore, being exposed to darkness for long periods of the day will cause havoc with how your hypothalamus regulates chemicals, leading to feelings of fatigue and low moods.
What can you do to boost your mood?
While not everybody will suffer from SAD, January can still be a tough time and while the gym may seem like the last thing you want to do after a long day at work, exercising can make a significant improvement to how you feel.
Considering this, here are the 8 ways that exercise can help you to beat the January blues.
Keeps you warm
You only have to look outside to realise that January is the coldest month of the year. Swap that fleece-lined onesie for your gym kit and get moving, after a few minutes of fast-paced exercise your heart will be pounding and you will be sweating!
Your body temperature should stay high for around an hour after you finish your workout, keeping you warmer for longer and eventually cooling you down to an average temperature.
Gives you more energy
Regular exercise will help you combat fatigue and will give you more energy in the long run. If you can't face the gym after a long day at work, consider waking up and feeling the burn by exercising first thing in the morning.
It only takes around 5 minutes of intense exercise until your brain starts to release mood-boosting hormones, called endorphins, into your system. Considering this, imagine how happy you will feel after an hour-long workout.
Gives you a goal to focus on
January is often an uneventful time in the calendar, so setting yourself goals and improving your fitness gives you something to focus on. You’ll feel accomplished as you achieve each milestone, which will help to improve your self-esteem and mood.
You are 80% more likely to get a cold during the winter, according to the NHS. Research by Medline Plus has found evidence that people that exercise regularly have stronger immune systems compared to those that do not. A stronger immune system means you’ll have a greater chance at preventing and fighting off illnesses, so get moving for a cold-free 2015.
Saves you money
The excess of Christmas means that our purse strings are often drawn a little tighter in January. Instead of spending a small fortune going out on the lash with your friends, save money by dedicating your weekends to training. While it may not appear to be as fun, your bank balance and your liver will thank you in the long run.
Comfort eat without guilt
While you may be following a strict diet, there’s no doubt about it, winter makes us want to consume food that isn’t very good for us. Regular exercise means that you can have a cheat day without regret, as the extra calories you consume will be blitzed when you hit the gym.
Get active with friends
You don’t have to go solo to get a good workout. Exercising with a friend or joining a class of people is a great way to feel like you’re part of a community, which leads to greater feelings of belonging and happiness.