Feeling down? Expert advice to help Canadians beat "Blue Monday," the most depressing day of the year

Jan 17, 2014, 11:07 ET from Luke Corey

HALIFAX, Jan. 17, 2014 /CNW/ - Feeling down and out? You are not alone. Monday, January 20, 2014, is what some psychological researchers call "Blue Monday."

This year, some academics considered Monday, January 6 the day when many people felt sad and guilty based on an analysis of tweets, however, January 20 marks the day when we're particularly miserable.

Dr. Cliff Arnall, a Cardiff University psychologist, coined the term in 2005, and deemed the third Monday in January the "most depressing day of the year," as people succumb to the culmination of dreary weather, mounting debts, post-holiday comedowns, a sense of failure from backing out of New Year's resolutions, and a lack of motivation.

Luke Corey, Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Complete Health and Nutrition, agrees that many Canadians can suffer seasonal sadness. He says the best way to beat the blues is to focus on small changes that promote healthy behaviour and provide a sense of achievement. He notes a recent study from the Centre for Disease Control showed a strong link between healthy behaviours and depression as those who exhibit healthy behaviours (like exercising, not smoking, etc.) had less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy.

"Seasonal conditions like long, dark days and cold weather can affect our moods, appetites and energy levels but focusing on overall health is the best medicine," notes Corey. "Instead of getting depressed because you had a misstep with your resolutions, reset your goals to be positive, mindful and allow for small, common-sense changes."

To help Canadians achieve and maintain their health goals through "Blue Monday" and beyond, here are a few tips from Corey:

  • Eat what you love. Instead of focusing on what you can't have, remember all foods can fit into a healthy diet— including favourites like a slice of pizza and chocolate. It's all about understanding how many calories are in the foods and beverages we're consuming and how many total calories we should be consuming each day. A recent Ipsos Reid poll1 showed 76 percent of Canadians believe there's too much conflicting information about daily caloric intake, and that 3 in 4 believe understanding how calories work would help them better manage their diet and weight. Corey stresses that when it comes to weight, all calories are equal: Too many total calories and your weight goes up. Consider sharing dessert with a friend to reduce calories without feeling deprived. Opt for smaller portions to satisfy cravings. Swap in options made with low- and no-calorie ingredients, such as diet soft drinks. These products can provide a sweet and safe alternative, as confirmed by the recent European Food Safety Authority opinion.

  • Love what you eat.  If you spend less than 60 minutes a day eating, chances are you are eating too fast. It takes 20 minutes for our brains to know that we've eaten and to register when we are full. Mindful eating—or, eating with intention and attention—allows you to enjoy eating more, while eating less. We often eat out of boredom or habit, but by shifting focus, people often learn to enjoy food and are less likely to exceed daily calorie recommendations. Corey suggests that Canadians savour the experience and the appearance, flavours, aromas and textures of food. Finally, listen to your body's cues that you're full so you don't over-eat. Remember - moderation is key.

  • Do what you love. Too often people use exercise as a way to pay penance for eating the wrong food or to earn the right to eat. This negative approach makes exercise difficult to enjoy and sustain. Corey recommends pin-pointing physical activity that you really like. Think back to what you enjoyed as a kid. Did you love to play ball, ride your bike, or walk around with your friends? Grab a friend and get back to being a kid at heart.

Finally, Corey notes that, "Everyone is different, so consult with your doctor or dietitian about what is best for you based on your diet history and current health goals. On average, a healthy diet consists of 1,600-1,800 calories for women and 1,800-2,000 for men - but this can vary by age, body weight, activity levels and other factors. The key to success is to make small changes so you don't feel deprived along the way."

1 The Ipsos Reid survey was commissioned by Coca-Cola Canada.

About Luke Corey, Registered Dietitian

Luke is a Registered Dietitian (RD), Weight Management Specialist and member of the Nova Scotia Dietetic Association. He is also a certified Level I Anthropometric Technician. Luke is the founder of Complete Health and Nutrition, a Halifax-based nutrition consulting company. Luke also serves as a consultant to the food and beverage industry, including Coca-Cola.

SOURCE Luke Corey