From daydreaming to sex – 18 ways to recharge and boost your mood in 2023

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JANUARY can be a testing month. It’s cold, dark, our bank balances have been depleted thanks to the cost of living crisis and Christmas – plus, it’s Blue Monday tomorrow – officially the gloomiest day of the year. 

For many of us, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is very real.

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January can be a testing month

Neuroscientist and Five Lives chief scientific officer Dr Jenny Barnett says: “Studies show that nine in 10 of us may be affected by the weather. Sometimes these reactions can manifest as SAD, a condition where the change of seasons causes symptoms such as low mood, higher anxiety and fatigue.”

But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and these little tips and tricks should make for a much happier start to the year.

1. Spice It Up 

Swap milk chocolate for something dark and chilli-laden instead – Lindt Excellence Chilli Dark is delicious. “Dark chocolate is fibre-rich, which keeps your insides happy, and chilli releases the feel-good hormone dopamine, so this rich combo will get you smiling in no time,” says wellbeing coach Natalie Farrell.

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2. Get Colouring

Whether it’s painting with the kids or solo doodling, a study published in The Arts In Psychotherapy found engaging in art increases blood flow to the reward centre of the brain, lifting mood. Get those felt tips out!

3. Boost Good Bacteria 

“Magnesium is important for limiting stress and reducing anxiety. Regulating both these emotions is among the best ways to stay happy,” says psychologist Barbara Santini.

So start loading up on magnesium-rich almonds. Meanwhile, maintaining a happy gut has been linked to better mood. Try a daily probiotic – like Biotiful Gut Health Kefir Protein Original – to help increase the good bacteria in your gut.

4. Make A Cuppa

Happiness isn’t grand gestures, expensive holidays and new clothes. “Happiness lives in small, everyday moments, like that first cup of tea in the morning, a smile from a loved one or a beautiful sky on the way to work,” says Becky Hall, life coach and author of The Art Of Enough.

5. Practise Gratitude

Write down four words at the end of each day – three things that you’re thankful for and one that was tougher.

“This can help ground you and help you appreciate the moment,” says Rosie Stockley, founder of Mamawell, a fitness company specialising in pre and postnatal exercise.

6. Stretch It Out

Life coach and yoga instructor Beth Fuller recommends the child’s pose if you’re feeling the weight of the world

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Life coach and yoga instructor Beth Fuller recommends the child’s pose if you’re feeling the weight of the world

Life coach and yoga instructor Beth Fuller recommends child’s pose if you’re feeling the weight of the world. Kneel on the floor, toes together and knees hip-width apart.

Lower your torso between your knees and extend your arms in front, palms facing down. Relax.

Beth says: “This gentle inversion stimulates blood flow to the brain. You’ll also open up the hips – a place many people hold a lot of tension.”

7. Breathe Properly 

Pause what you’re doing, inhale for four counts, hold the breath for four, exhale for four and hold for four.

“By practising this steady breathing pattern, you move into the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system, signalling to your body you’re safe, which enables you to feel calm and embrace positivity,” Beth explains.

8. Treat Yourself

“Research shows that you need to acknowledge your small wins on the way to reaching a bigger goal,” says self-development expert Iti Malken.

So head out on a solo date, book a nail appointment or buy your favourite magazine for some at-home downtime.

9. Move More

Exercise (even small amounts!) has been found to increase happiness

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Exercise (even small amounts!) has been found to increase happiness

Exercise (even small amounts!) has been found to increase happiness. Feel like you’ve got no time? Try VILPA, or vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity.

This is short, sharp bursts of activity that gets you moving for a minute or so, which reduces cardiovascular risk. Try running – not walking – for the bus or changing the bed sheets in record time.

10. Be A Dreamer 

In a stressed-out world, daydreaming helps you think more creatively and clearly

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In a stressed-out world, daydreaming helps you think more creatively and clearly

“In a stressed-out world, daydreaming helps you think more creatively and clearly, and allows the brain to recharge and function at its best,” says Chris Griffiths, co-author of The Creative Thinking Handbook.

“Engage in a task that requires relaxed attention, such as walking or washing up, and just let your mind wander.”

11. Give Back 

“We live in a society that is so much about accumulating stuff that we don’t always think about others,” says life and career coach Natalie Trice.

“From volunteering at a food bank to raising money for charity, there are many ways you can give back that’ll give you a glow from knowing you are making a difference.” Visit Gov.uk for volunteering opportunities local to you.

12. Find Time For Sex

A bit of nooky can put a smile on your face

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A bit of nooky can put a smile on your face

A bit of nooky can put a smile on your face. “The more frequently you have sex, the better,” says Barbara.

“Increase happiness and intimacy through enhancing sexual moments with sex toys and lubricants.” According to executive director of the Women’s Health Research Institute Dr Lori Brotto, you can use mindfulness for better sex, too.

Download the Ferly app for tips on boosting desire through mindfulness.

14. Soak Up Sunshine

'It’s important during winter for everyone to get as much natural sunlight as possible'

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‘It’s important during winter for everyone to get as much natural sunlight as possible’

“It’s important during winter for everyone to get as much natural sunlight as possible,” says Dr Barnett.

“Indoors, try to sit as close as you can to windows and avoid sitting in the dark.” And be sure to take 10mg of vitamin D daily, as a lack of it has been linked with depression.

15. Hit The Hay 

“Even subtle changes in sleep patterns, such as waking up later than you did the previous day, can result in massive issues, disrupting the essential stages that help improve our cognition,” says Dr Barnett.

Be sure to give your brain a helping hand by having a good sleep routine in which you wake up and go to bed at similar times each day.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in the US have also found that getting up and about early can do wonders for ageing healthily and cognitive ability, as well as ensuring that you’re looking after your mental health.

16. Stay Positive

Focus on you – and don’t be ashamed to fake it if you have to!

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Focus on you – and don’t be ashamed to fake it if you have to!

“Let go of pleasing people and those in your life who sap energy and time,” says Rosie.

“Notice what is background noise and ultimately distracting you from your own positivity and goals.”

Focus on you – and don’t be ashamed to fake it if you have to! Researchers at Stanford University found that by forcing your facial muscles into a smile, you can genuinely feel happier.

17. LOL Away Stress

Laughter could really be the best medicine. A study published in The Tohoku Journal Of Experimental Medicine revealed laughter lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while boosting feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin.

Put on your fave comedy or watch some funny cat YouTube videos to make you chuckle.

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18. Sing!

“The act of singing helps to tone your vagus nerve, which helps to bring the body back into homoeostasis – that balance we are all seeking to make us happier,” explains Natalie. It might be time for a karaoke session… 

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