Published on January 12th, 2018 | from CAMH

Keep it moving on Blue Monday

By Dr. Niki Fitzgerald, Psychologist in CAMH’s Work, Stress & Health Program

Originally conceived as a marketing ploy by a travel agency to get people to book winter getaways, there is really no legit science backing the notion that makes one day of the year the “saddest” of them all.  That being said, you might be experiencing or hearing from others about a post-holiday slump.  Gone is the excitement of the first snow, the holiday planning – whether that included some much needed downtime or time with family and friends.   New Year’s Resolutions that started off well might be quickly heading for their place in the land of failed resolutions of years gone by. 

So what to do to keep those winter doldrums at bay?  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, an evidence-based option is to move your body.

While there is still lots of work to be done in the area of exercise and its connection to mental health, there’s strong evidence to suggest that it is a great way to lift your spirits and to even help keep the blues away.  Exercise, even short, 10 minute bouts of movement  can elevate your mood, improve concentration, creativity, sleep, help stave off colds, help you recover faster if you do get sick, and decrease blood pressure in those with hypertension.  If you need even more reason to get off your seat, think about it as an investment in your future self as it helps to offset both the physical and cognitive declines that can be associated with aging. There’s a reason why some have touted exercise as a ‘miracle drug.’

While we know that exercise is good for us, there can be a tendency to equate it to slogging away on a dreadmill (oops, treadmill) or sweating it out on a spin bike, but there are lots of others ways to get moving.

Instead of lamenting the cold weather, think about checking out the new ice skating trail that just opened beneath the Gardiner, complete with warming stations. Or channel your inner kid and take advantage of the snow and go sledding, or engage family or friends in a friendly snowball fight. For those who really dislike the cold, maybe some fitness classes with friends or weight training at your local gym are the right fit for you.  No matter what you do, chances are you’ll find yourself feeling recharged and better able to tackle the rest of the day.

To increase your chances of getting on the move, recruit a friend to go with. Make sure that you have your gear set to go in advance and on hand to take away one more barrier.  On days when you really don’t feel like going, try telling yourself to just go for 10 minutes – at least you’ll have gotten that in. Chances are, once you’ve started, you’ll finish what you had planned and at the very least, feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards.   I personally love having a goal to work towards.

How will you move today?

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