How to beat those January blues

Some tips from Britain's top psychologists, authors and coaches on how to be happier at work

The Christmas decorations are down. The days are dark. You're back at your desk and you've already broken all your new year's resolutions.

All this misery is coming to a head; Monday 15 January is 'Blue Monday' – officially the gloomiest day of the year.

According to government statistics, 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, resulting in 12.5 million working days lost.

Before you sink even further into the pits of depression, here's how you can battle the blues. We gathered nine experts in psychology, creativity, mindfulness, motivation and leadership to share their top tips on staying positive at work. Happy new year.

Bring on Mondays

"Stop thinking that Mondays are bad and Fridays are good," says Andy Cope, "doctor of happiness" and author of Happiness: Your Route Map to Inner Joy. The average lifespan is 4,000 weeks and a seventh of your life is spent on Mondays. Flip your thinking. Friday does, in fact, bring you another week closer to death, while Monday is an opportunity to make a dent in the universe.

Surprise yourself

There’s nothing like stepping out of your comfort zone to lift your mood. So volunteer for things you'd normally avoid. "Stretch yourself, or just find yourself working alongside different people," advises Richard Templar, author of The Rules of People. "You’ll get a fresh perspective, discover new talents, learn new skills to take pride in, make new friends, impress your boss and get added variety in your day. What’s stopping you?"

Understand your why

Understand your personal goals and how being successful at work can help you to achieve them. "The moment we create the bridge in our mind – the link between our personal goals, business goals and what we do daily during work – self-motivation kicks in," explains Royston Guest, business growth expert and author of Built to Grow. "This is the defining moment a person changes from someone with a job to someone with a purpose."

Enforced cigarette breaks

If you want to get better ideas, introduce mandatory cigarette breaks. Smoking is optional; it’s the break that counts. "Today's over-focus on productivity might encourage people to do more, but it also encourages them to think less," says Dave Birss, creativity and applied thinking expert and speaker in the Thought Expansion Network. "Giving everyone a regular break from their desk will help to give them fresh perspectives. Standing outside and breathing deeply will help them reduce stress. And encouraging them to bump into people they don’t normally meet will broaden their approach." The time you lose in productivity will pay dividends in better thinking. Give your business a breath of fresh air.

Bring your whole self to work

"People perform better when they can be themselves," says Stephen Frost, founder of the diversity and inclusion consultancy Frost Included. "Not only are people happier and healthier when they don't have to cover up aspects of their identity, but they are also free to focus more time and energy on their jobs."

Cultivate gratitude

Write down what are you grateful for, then express that gratitude directly to others – verbally or in writing. "Gratitude is the emotional state and attitude to life that strengthens and enhances your personal wellbeing," says Sebastian Salicru, leadership expert and author of Leadership Results. "It is an amplifier of positive emotion and a great motivator that energises and leads you to positive action. Grateful people are excellent at setting goals and overcoming obstacles to achieve them."

Reward yourself

Create an internal rewards mechanism for yourself. This is a personal secret pact where you bank rewards to say thank you to yourself for doing brilliantly well. "Make a private note that you've earned a treat you love, then enjoy it when you next get a chance," advises Jonathan MacDonald, founder of The Thought Expansion Network. "Go on, you deserve it."

Write a 'to-be' list

Carina Lawson, founder of the wellbeing planner brand Ponderlily recommends writing "to-be" lists instead of "to-do" lists, recognising that you are more than just your role. Actively seek opportunities to work on projects and tasks that complement your interests and progress your career.

Don't focus on happiness

"The best way to create happiness at work is not to target it," says Philip Cox-Hynd, change implementation specialist and author of Mindfulness and the Art of Change by Choice. "I don’t meet up with my mates to get happy; I meet them for a host of reasons that result in a satisfying night out or not. So focusing on ways to feel satisfied at work has a greater chance of delivering happiness – but not all the time, as that would be really boring."

This article first appeared in Third Sector's sister publication, Management Today

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