Mood-enhancing tips and tricks to take the sting out of the January blues

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Amy Swales
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Considering how much a standard Monday hurts, it’s frankly surprising anyone makes it into work after the Christmas break.

As the alarm goes off in what’s clearly the middle of the night and the simmering resentment of everyone and everything to blame for this sorry state of affairs (your boss, your work ethic, The National Lottery) threatens to take over, think instead of these mood-boosting, joy-inducing tips and tricks to help get you through the long, dark days ahead.

Some are proven mood enhancers, while others are simply nice things to bring a little happiness to your day. We’re not going to tell you to go outside and stare at a bag blowing in the wind to appreciate the beauty in the world. We’re going to tell you to book a holiday, watch good TV and eat carbs. Treats for January – it's the only way.


Wake up and smell the lemons

Crack out the oranges and lemons, because citrus scents are a super-quick mood fix while sat at your desk. Scrape the peel of a fresh lemon for a sparky hit, or treat yourself to a refreshing fragrance in the sales.

Try: Jo Malone, L'Occitane

Eat some carbs

We won’t judge anyone starting January with a health kick (just as we won’t judge anyone who joins us off the wagon in about two weeks) but don’t shun all carbohydrates – in fact, carbs help the production of serotonin, aka the happy hormone, which is essential for mood regulation. And yes, when it comes to snacks we all know that five doughnuts will lead to a sugar crash, but life’s about balance and sometimes it's worth it.

Buy new supplies

Who doesn’t love a new diary or notebook? Perhaps some posh pens and a neat little tin to keep them in? As well as the little flush of pleasure from the retail therapy, we subscribe to the theory that surrounding oneself (and one's desk) with lovely things can only be good for our productivity. Right? Right? Whatever – stationery makes us happy.

Try: Liberty, Paperchase, get inspired with's stationery gallery

Pick your Friday treats

Or Monday treats. Or Wednesday. Pick a day and that’s the day when porridge can do one because you’re having a Cronut for breakfast.

Turn your phone off

And leave your out-of-office on after the weekend or a long break, such as the Christmas holiday. Probably controversial in some offices, but giving yourself time to get on top of things is better than immediately feeling overwhelmed with calls and emails and meetings. Just a morning without distractions to organise yourself could work wonders.

Bag a lunch-break bargain

Fine, we know shopping is a cheap (or more likely, expensive) trick, but it's official: retail therapy is a real thing.


Get your golden tickets

Book in those things you say you'll do more of but don't. Local theatre and cinema tickets, interesting talks, gigs, comedy and club nights. Even if they're months away, it feels productive and exciting to schedule in fun stuff and guaranteed time with friends or family (which also alleviates that staying-in-again guilt for a double win). If you're hanging on to December's pay by your fingertips, museums and galleries often offer free events.

Try: BFI, The Comedy Store, The National Gallery, Rumpus, Southbank Centre

Invest in your bed

Post-Christmas winter and the humble bed comes into its own, calling you to it all day long like a dangerous, kind of flat and bed-shaped siren. So make your bed experience the very best it can be. Buy incredible pyjamas. Get new bed linen or fabric conditioner. Keep the space tidy. Reattach the curtain ring that fell off sometime last spring. It’ll make it harder to leave, but oh-so-wonderful to slip into at the end of the day.

Jet off (or not)

A lesson in excellent January decision-making: book time off. How jealous were you of the colleague spending the first week of January sunning themselves in Thailand? Plus looking forward to the next break can get you through the toughest of days. It doesn't have to be long and it doesn't have to be abroad: home holidays are the best for pottering around, going shopping or simply enjoying the novelty of weekday lie-ins.

Try: British Airways (currently running a January sale), Monarch (January sale ends 22nd), Travelzoo (weekly offers scouted by their team)

Cook more

Cooking is fun and relaxing, fact – especially if it's just for yourself without the pressure of a dinner party. Make it fancy just to see if you can, make it mood-boosting or just bang out some fairy cakes (you know, the flat ones that only go halfway up the case with watery icing and a few silver balls lobbed on top). You're not on Bake Off now, so just get stuck in.

Try: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and chocolate (check out for more)

Decorate your digs

Why wait for a Bank Holiday? It makes you feel good (confirmed) but we didn’t need a study to tell us that a fresh space – whether pleasingly minimalist and ordered or comfortingly cosy – feels amazing. A constructive and ultimately relaxing endeavour, all DIY furniture aside. Do over a whole room, or buy a few key accents to change the look.

Try: Inspiration from

Write a to-do list, except...

Yeah, they’re boring. So write a more interesting one – TV series you’ve been meaning to watch, books you’re always intending to read, photo albums to make, people to see, treats to buy (those new headphones, an upgraded laptop), new restaurants or bars. You don’t have to do them all now (then they end up like a proper to-do list), but things that are fun to do are as worthy of your time as things that are necessary.

Try: Paperchase

Light up

Researchers worldwide agree that exposure to white light helps with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and just 30 minutes can boost your mood. Get outside as much as possible in daylight hours, or buy a medically certified lamp for the rest of the time.

Try: Visit for more information

Alternative resolutions

Dance naked in your bedroom. With wild abandon. See above for details.

Try: This

DIY Cocktails

Like all of us, you’ve probably got enough kit already – nice glasses, bitters you’ve never used and have no idea why you own. We're not talking frozen Cosmopolitans here; a lot of classic cocktails are surprisingly easy, don’t require a shaker and feel ever so indulgent and sophis, darling. Whip up a Negroni or an Old Fashioned and kick back.

Try: 21 gin cocktails

And if it all just gets a bit much, just let the tears flow

Because apparently, crying could actually cheer you up. Happy January, one and all.

Images: Thinkstock, Rex Features


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.