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24th Jan – The most depressing day of the year

A couple of years ago 24th January was

officially pronounced the “most depressing day of the year,” according to a UK psychologist,

Dr Cliff Arnall.

 

Dr Arnall’s, who specializes in seasonal

disorders at the University of Cardiff, Wales, created a formula that takes

into account numerous feelings to devise peoples’ lowest point.

 

He found that, while days technically get

longer after 21st December, cyclonic weather systems take hold in January,

bringing low, dark clouds to Britain. Meanwhile, the majority of people break

their healthy resolutions six to seven days into the New Year, and even the

hangers-on have fallen off the wagon, torn off the nicotine patches and eaten

the fridge empty by the third week. Any residual dregs of holiday cheer and

family fun have kicked the bucket by 24th January.

 

This year with the gloomy economic climate is

likely to be more depressing than ever.

 

How can

psychology help to beat the blues?

 

Happiness and psychological well-being are

now serious areas of psychological research. Positive emotions have been linked

to increased well-being and engagement at work, while engagement at work is linked

to profitability, productivity, turnover, and customer satisfaction.

 

There are a number of techniques and

exercises which can be used to promote optimism and life satisfaction. Many

work by encouraging us to break our habitual negative thinking patterns and

concentrate on the positive.

 

Most people spend more time focused on what

has, or will, go wrong, than they do thinking about what has gone right for

them. We remember failures and things we have not been able to complete more

easily than we remember success. This is called the Zeigarnick effect. I bet

you can remember the last rude/mean/nasty thing that was said to you more

easily than you can remember your last compliment!

 

Critically it is this thinking style can

minimize life satisfaction and increase anxiety and depression. By challenging

this thinking style, we can reverse the trend!

 

Exercise

to beat the January blues

 

As many of us have heard from our parent we

should ‘count our blessings’ this exercise helps us do just that. Martin

Seligman and others have devised and used a simple technique to address this,

called the three blessings exercise.

 

Step one

Every night before you go to bed, write

down three positive events from your day. These can be things that went well,

nice things that happened to you, or just things that you felt good about. They

can either be small and run of the mill – “my boyfriend put the heating so

that it was warm when I woke up”, or more important – “my mum’s

cancer scare turned out to be a false alarm.”

 

Step two

For each positive event, think about why it

happened. For example, did your boyfriend turn the heating on because he really

loves you and wants to make sure you are comfortable, or did he do it because

you reminded him that you would be getting up later than usual?

 

Step three

Once you have your list, chose one positive

event you would like to dream about. 
Research shows that positive dreams increase life satisfaction and

consolidate the memories of good events, so it is worth the effort to try to

influence your dream content.

 

Doing the following will increase your

chances of having a positive dream:

a) Give the positive event a name (e.g.,

“my healthy mum”).

2) Visualise it.

3) As you go to sleep, say the name over

and over, visualise it, and intend to dream about it.

 

You might not be successful first time. Influencing

your dream can take practice. However, even without influencing your dream, research

shows that people who write down every day all the things for which they were

grateful, are not only happier than others, but are also more likely to take

exercise, get regular health checks and are more energetic, enthusiastic and

alert.

 

 

Louise Weston

http://www.pearnkandola.com

 

Louise Weston is a Business Psychologist at

Pearn Kandola in Oxford.

She can be contacted on 01865 516202 or emailed at info@pearnkandola.com

 

 

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