The beginning of a New Year always brings about a pressure that the year is going to be the Best Ever. That everything that happened in the previous year isn’t anything in comparison to the amazingness that will be the next 365 days.
You can do ANYTHING. You can be ANYONE. All you need is a positive mental attitude… right?
Well, not really. There are loads of things that I would like to do that if I’m honest with myself are not going to happen. I would love to star on Broadway and jazz hands my way through a Chicago number. I’m not saying that it’s 100% out of the realms of possibility, but it would take an amazing stroke of luck (and a good vocal coach) if this time next week I was sashaying up and down 42nd Street.
(Tell me why) I don’t like Mondays
The thing about January, is that as well as plugging the idea that everyone needs to live under the mantra of 'new year, new me' (despite the fact that the old you is more than likely perfectly lovely) there are the constant 'reminders' that January should also have an undertone of meh. Last Monday was cited as the day that people are more likely to start divorce proceedings. Today has been dubbed as 'Blue Monday' – the most 'depressing' day of the year.
It’s no wonder that sometimes January seems a bit odd to fathom – it doesn’t know what it’s doing. Am I supposed to be positive and embracing the new 'me' by changing my attitude, hair, choice of snack, job aspirations and whole life?
Or am I supposed to be curling under a duvet hiding away from what next Monday is going to spring upon me, hoping that I’m not going to turn a shade of teal or be forced to join Tinder?
The important thing to remember is that there is a big difference between being clinically depressed and having a having the 'Blues'. The idea of 'Blue Monday' was originally plugged by a PR company that took all the 'depressing' things about January (after Christmas debt, after Christmas come down, low motivation, bad weather, to name a few) and basically used an 'equation' to convince us all that we should feel depressed.
Health charity, Mind have commented on 'Blue Monday' saying that the idea 'contributes to damaging misconceptions about depression' and 'trivialises an illness' citing that ‘there is no credible evidence to suggest that one day can increase the risk of people feeling depressed' but there are certain things – (Christmas financial strains, bad weather, short daylight hours) – that 'make people feel down'.
So where does that leave us? Are we happy or not?
(Not) Just another manic Monday
I’m fortunate enough that so far in my life I have not suffered from depression. But I know people who have - and there’s no other word I can use to describe it than horrible.
Like with any medical condition, mental health is not something that should be brushed under the carpet. Since working at Groundwork, I’ve read more and more studies and reports that show the positive effect that fresh air and outdoor space has on our mental health. In the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan announced by the Prime Minister last week, the proposals acknowledged how DEFRA and NHS mental health providers need to join up to consider environmental therapies – such as gardening and outdoor exercises – as a way of getting people who have depression out in the natural environment to help tackle social isolation, loneliness and to ultimately feel the benefits of getting lungful’s of fresh air and feeling a breeze on your cheeks.
A report released by Natural England last year – in collaboration with Mind and the University of Essex, stated that taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. The proposals echoed the plan released last week that we need to put a greater emphasis on the benefits of 'green care'.
So this 'Blue Monday', one thing that may be able to help is getting outside and soaking up the benefits of being outdoors, regardless of whether you are feeling down, or are tackling depression. While it’s not a 'fix-all' solution, it’s an option that has proven benefits, therefore, should be available to more people, regardless of where you live. It ultimately leads back to the importance of why our local parks and greenspaces are important to us all.
In my case, it also means that I can practice my ‘step-ball change’ around the park.
And all that jazz.
Post by Stacey Aplin, PR and Communications Officer