Mindfulness - the answer to January blues ?

Updated: Jan 20, 2019

The January blues are real - the shift between holiday and fun if the extended Christmas break means that we have trouble readjusting to the return to work or study.

Prof Watkins, a Professor of Experimental and Applied Clinical Psychology at the University of Exter, has some advice on how to overcome the January blues.

He said: “Depressed mood is often exacerbated by a perception of a gap between how someone wants things to be and how they actually are. These actual-ideal discrepancies are highlighted at this time of year.”

“There are all these cultural messages around Christmas and the New Year about goodwill to all people, the importance of spending time with close friends and family, having fun, and making new starts. However, for people who are isolated or finding these activities difficult for whatever reason, this stark contrast can make them feel inadequate and blue.”

“Some people can also negatively compare how they are now with what they used to be able to do or what they hoped they would have achieved by now and this can lower their mood.”

He revealed: “There is good evidence that being more active – physically and mentally - connecting with other people, getting absorbed in interesting activities, becoming more concrete and specific in your thinking (eg, by asking how?) rather than thinking about meanings and implications (eg, asking why?) all help people to feel better.”

These approaches to overcoming the January blues are based on research into improving the psychological treatment of depression, a key focus of the MDC, a partnership between the University and the NHS.

Research at the MDC looks at mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders and has three overlapping aims.

The first is to understand the underlying psychological mechanisms of these disorders by studying how the thoughts, feelings, and actions of people cause the onset or maintenance of depression.

Secondly researchers at the Centre aim to translate that knowledge into more effective and potent psychological treatments and evaluate them in randomised controlled trials.

The third aim is to increase the accessibility of evidence-based treatments – to get treatments that work to as many as people as possible as cost-effectively as possible.

Prof Watkins used his own research as an example of this process.

He said: “My work starts with the mechanisms underpinning depression. We know that rumination and worry are common factors causing depression. My experimental lab research has sought to understand rumination and has shown that you can get people to ruminate in a helpful way by shifting the way they think.

“This in turn led to the development of treatments that explicitly target rumination by training people into more helpful ways of thinking. Clinical trials have shown that this approach is effective at reducing depression in patients with major depression.”

Mindfulness and ‘keeping in it in the day’ , focussing on the here and now rather than the past or future is a wonderful way to stop that wandering mind. Today is just fine as long as we keep the day in the day.

Our training means that Mental Health First Aid can sit within the workplace and disseminate these practices to their peers whether within a business or charity.

Excerpts taken from https://www.exeter.ac.uk/research/feature/janblues/

Managing seasonal depression with mindfulness.

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