‘Blue Monday,’ the third Monday in January, is officially the most depressing day of the year. Feelings of negativity in the aftermath of Christmas, the stress of returning to work and the awful weather all conspire to making us mardy. Don’t just sit there, do something about it, says Emily Oldfield…
Keeping active gets those feel-good chemicals flowing! Even just mild exertion is all that is needed for the body to release extra dopamine – a chemical in the brain responsible for feelings of happiness. You don’t have to be as fast as Fred Perry or able to bend it like Beckham; all you need to do is get active! There are some great opportunities in Manchester with convenient city centre venues such as Nuffield Health Gym in the Printworks and the Y Club on Liverpool Road. Keeping active keeps you connected too, and by looking around you may well be amazed at the variety of classes and sessions available. Whether it’s zumba, boxercise, archery or even bog snorkelling, there’s something for everyone and every level of fitness.
Feast on Fresh Air
It’s fun, it’s fresh and it’s free. What more could you ask for? Getting out in the open air is one of life’s understated pleasures and can provide a crucial change of scenery too, even if it’s just going to the park. After all, Manchester has 138 parks, 31 with a green flag status, so it’s a city really going the extra mile to give you a place to escape. The ‘Green Corridor’ makes this even easer – a walking route devised to link up these open spaces, made up of 14 exciting routes. This means plenty of fresh air without having to pay a penny. Definitely something to smile about.
Is anyone else guilty of having a collage of cute animal pictures to hand to cheer themselves up? Whether it’s your traditional cute kittens, market-driven meerkats or the popularity of pugs: the last few years certainly have seen the rise of feel-good furries. And animals are actually scientifically-proven to boost our positivity too! Interacting with or watching animals can cause the body to stop releasing cortisol, the chemical associated with stress. Pet owners in particular can enjoy lower average levels of blood pressure and cholesterol, too. And even if you don’t have a pet of your own, no need to feel blue because Manchester has the answer! The city is set to be home to not just one but TWO kitty cafes – places to drink and dine in the company of real cats! There is already a crowdfunding campaign in place for a NQ cat cafe, and the owners of successful Kitty Café Nottingham have recently announced plans for the North also!
Light Up Your life
Sunlight is a saviour when it comes to making us feel better as exposure to the sun is required for vitamin D production as well as keeping important chemical balances. Yet in these winter months it seems that we sometimes see no sun at all – and this can impact significantly on mood. During the darker months our bodies produce more of the hormone melatonin than normal – with studies suggesting that overproduction of this can lead to fatigue and depression. So it’s no wonder January is a month often associated with negative mood. Sunlight can scale down these melatonin levels– but as much as we love Manchester, we can’t guarantee the sun will be out when you need it. The answer is easier than you think though – just capture it for yourself! That’s right, rolling in to rescue the grim old North is potted sunlight in the form of sunlight lamps – an effective method of providing you with the equivalent of sunlight in the comfort of your own home. Lumie offer an interesting range online www.lumie.com or you can pick one up in John Lewis. Other retailers are available.
Being artistic and expressive can boost our mood considerably. You may be aware of art as a form of therapy and whether you like painting, play an instrument, or prefer writing, being creative highlights the great things you are capable of. Nexus Art Café hold a number of events in their quirky space, whilst Northern Quarter favourites PLY host ‘Sketch Sundays’. If you prefer the written word, then Chapter One bookshop invites you in to put your own worthy ideas on paper, complete with old-school typewriters! Any opportunity for self-expression is something to go for. See what you are capable of. You never know, you might surprise yourself.
Food For a Good Mood
This could be considered an important motto for banishing the blues. Not only is food essential to energise us, it can provide an exciting experience in itself. Think of all the colours and flavours available out there! Celebrating this are a number of new Manchester eateries, countering the ‘dirty food’ movement by offering clean eating at cut prices – a refreshing trend set to be big in 2016. At Wahu Spinningfields you can create a complete lunch from one of the biggest salad bars in town, or why not warm yourself with a tasty Thai dish at Thaikhun or Chaophraya; or a nourishing noodle soup at Pho in the Corn Exchange? Food is out there to forge a flavour of summer come early. Even going to the markets and getting your own can be a great experience.
You’re Having a Laugh
Mancunians are known for their sense of humour.. In a city which was birthplace to such comedy legends as Les Dawson, Steve Coogan and Victoria Wood, it’s no wonder that having a laugh here often serves as a great antidote to tougher times. Why not see for yourself and take a trip to one or two of the city’s theatres of funny such as The Forg and Bucket or The Comedy Store? Morrissey may have sung ‘that joke isn’t funny anymore’, but Mancunian humour seems to keep its charm and spreads even to the world of exercise – in the form of laughter yoga, an idea might make you giggle before we’ve even begun! It’s a yoga club where laughter is key and its motto is ‘All you have to do is laugh.’ Check it out @MCRLaughterYoga
Make the Most of Mindfulness
Sometimes we can’t change situations in our lives which lead to stress or feeling blue, but what we CAN change is how we deal with it. This is where mindfulness comes in – a strategy which encourages us to live in the here-and-now. Perhaps you feel blue at the thought of future uncertainties, or worry about what has already happened? Fortunately, you can climb out of the questioning in the form of mindfulness techniques which you can access online or in a variety of Manchester venues. Breathworks is a brilliant example of a service offering mindfulness for dealing with stress and Manchester Buddhist Centre hosts mindfulness classes open to all.