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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

New Year's Blues: 6 Ways to Make it Through January

I hate the month of January, and I know I’m not alone. The holidays (and vacation days) are over, it’s dark and freezing outside, and I’m generally in the midst of three or four miserable resolutions aimed at getting back to my pre-December pant size. It pretty much feels like a case of the Mondays—for 31 days straight.

But a few years ago, I had a realization: Like it or not, January is one twelfth of my year (and my life, for that matter)—and I should probably figure out some way to deal with the winter blues besides stomping and grunting. Here are six tricks I’ve found to help me make it through each year.

1. Plan a Trip

My favorite way to beat the blues is to get out of town. So, sometime in January, plan something that you’re really excited about. Preferably, take a trip somewhere sunny that’ll get you out of the cold and dreariness, but even just a weekend road trip or an overnight stay with your friends will do. And if you can’t get away until later in the year, that’s OK—research shows that just the act of planning and anticipating your vacation will give you a boost in happiness.

2. Have Resolution-Friendly Fun

January is the time when people want to save money, eat better, exercise more, and work harder. Which translates to: No one wants to go out. But don’t let those pesky resolutions hold you back from having fun—just use them as an excuse to get creative. Challenge yourself and your friends to plan lots of budget- and diet-friendly events: a Top Chef-style healthy cooking competition, a blind tasting of $5 wines, a Wii bowling championship, or a dance-off in someone’s living room. Cheap, guilt-free fun.

3. Get a Hobby

Many of us make big, ambitious resolutions like “this will be the year I finish my book” or “I’m finally going to learn how to sew!” But, it’s much less daunting (not to mention more fun) if you ditch the resolution idea, and make whatever it is you want to do a “January hobby” instead. Even if you never knit, pick up a paintbrush, or cook Indian food again after the 31st, who cares? It’ll get you through January. And if it sticks, great—you’ll have picked up an awesome new hobby.

4. Do Winter Activities

I think of ice skating and sipping peppermint mochas in cozy coffee shops as pre-Christmas activities. But, the truth is, there’s nothing that says they have to be, and no one really has time for them before the holidays anyway. So, make January the time you celebrate winter. Make a list of all of the things you actually like about the season—snowball fights, skiing, sitting by the fire, watching people slip on the ice in the park, whatever—and go do them!

5. Make an Album

One weekend day, when it’s too windy, icy, or otherwise disgusting to go outside, spend the day compiling all of your photos from the past year and making them into a photo book on Shutterfly. You’ll remember all the fun you had in 2011 (yes, even in January) and look forward to all the good stuff that the coming year has in store.

6. Make Sure You’re Not SAD

If you feel like your misery is more than just a passing hatred of January, talk to your doctor—sometimes there are actual medical reasons for the winter blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder or “seasonal depression” is a very real mood disorder (caused by the hormonal shifts in your brain that occur when the seasons change), and it’s diagnosed more frequently in women than men. The lack of sunlight can also cause a Vitamin D deficiency, which has been linked with depression and fatigue.

So, make sure you’re healthy, make your getaway plans, and have some fun. I promise, there’s an end in sight. Only 29 days away.

Photo courtesy of Matt Janicki.