5 ways to respond to the winter blues this January

While there's nothing scientific about the third Monday in January being more "blue" than any other day in the year, January can be a depressing month for many reasons, according to Kristine Lund, director of psychotherapy programs at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

"January is often the aftermath of the holiday season," says psychotherapy expert Kristine Lund

When you're feeling blue, Lund recommends getting active, getting outside, and finding a way to express your feelings in a healthy way. (Shutterstock/OKcamera)

Once considered to be one of the most depressing days of the year, the third Monday in January has proven to be no more blue than any other.

But while there's nothing scientific about Blue Monday, January can be a discouraging and depressing month for many reasons, according to Kristine Lund, director of psychotherapy programs at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. 

"There's this huge build up to the holiday season," she said, "and then you come into January and then there's this sort of let down." 

If it persists, if darker thoughts are becoming more persistent, if you feel ever of hurting yourself or someone else, then for sure you need seek professional help.- Kristine Lund

"Maybe it wasn't as exciting as you had hoped for, or maybe there were difficulties with friends or family members, or now you've discovered you spent too much money. So January is often the aftermath of the holiday season."

In addition to this, Lund said there's an environmental factor to the winter blues: it's dark, it's cold, it's snowing, and there's ice everywhere.

Lund said the darkness is particularly problematic, as it is thought to contribute to a particular type of depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"It seems to be a kind of depression that is linked to the darker seasons of the year," she said. "In the spring and summer, people start to feel better."

For those who are experiencing a lower mood this winter, Lund has the following suggestions: 

1. Get out of your house

"It's sort of a counterintuitive thing to do this time of year," she said, but "it's important to get out and try to engage with the winter in some way, whether it's just to go for a walk or to take part in some of the activities that are happening in town."

2. Get active

"Physical activity is very helpful for elevating mood," she said. "It doesn't mean you have to go train for a marathon, but even walking for half-an-hour a day can make a big difference."

3. Get the feelings out

"Sometimes people find writing helpful or they find some other creative activity -- maybe they like to draw or paint or build things -- just as a way of expressing some of what is going on for them," she said.

Others might find it helpful to do something physical — like chop wood or stack parts — or sing at the top of their lungs in the car.

4. Get talking

"Talking helps if you have someone who would listen," she said. "Having somebody who can sensitively listen to them, not necessarily solve the problem for them, but just to listen to them, because often in the talking, solutions start to come."

5. Get help

Finally, Lund said it's important to recognize when self-help strategies are not helping and it's time to seek help from a professional.

"I would say if this way of feeling is persisting, if in a month you're still feeling this way, then it's important to seek some help," she said. "If it persists, if darker thoughts are becoming more persistent, if you feel ever of hurting yourself or someone else, then for sure you need seek professional help."

Lund recommends speaking to a doctor or someone in your faith community.

In Waterloo region and Wellington County, residents can also call Here247, a mental health hotline operated by the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Alliance.