Winter. Mornings are dark, so far this January every day here in the North West of England has been grey (and I know the same is true for other parts of the UK), the daylight hours are shorter than the dark hours. It is easy to feel surrounded by darkness, and to want to hibernate. January is a time when many people feel in low spirits, for many different reasons.

Reports on patterns in low mood indicate that December, January and February are the months when people are most likely to feel down. Personally, I find that the bright Christmas lights help in December, although I understand that if you find Christmas difficult the decorations and lights are no help at all. January is the month I least like: it is likely to be the coldest month, the Christmas lights have come down, the lengthening of the days is hardly noticeable. For me February is very early spring (the optimist in me!) and by then I’ve noticed that the days are getting longer.

If you are like me and find dark days difficult, what can we do to not only survive but thrive? My reading and personal experience tell me that the following help:

Get outside. There is little enough sunshine anyway, and getting outside during the day, even for 15 minutes, means we get to see the sun.

Go for a walk. Even with my dislike of the cold I can enjoy a walk on a frosty day. I find it warms me up too.

Be curious. Explore your mood, experiment with what changes it.

Look for signs of spring. I have bulbs sprouting in my front garden, and I’ve seen daffodils in full bloom in the grounds of Chester Cathedral.

Eat well. Many people diet in January after feeling they overdid it at Christmas; eating fruit and vegetables is part of a healthy diet at any time of the year.

Keep warm. Snuggle. A friend gave me a lovely furry blanket a few years ago and this is the time of year when it comes out and I sit under it when reading or watching the TV in the evening.

Be kind to yourself. List the things that you like and find comforting and build some into your week

While I don’t want to wish my life away I remember that however I feel this too will pass. This is the moment in the year when the northern half of the earth is furthest from the sun, and yet it will continue on its orbit and spring and summer will come. I find that knowledge that this is just part of the changing seasons, part of a natural process, helps me keep my mood in perspective. Just as our moods change the seasons change, sometimes in sync, sometimes for other reasons.

“Life brings darkness so many times, and we feel down in this phase of darkness. But the true value of darkness only realizes when we face the darkness, until we look some sunshine within the darkness.”― John Magoss

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