It was widely reported that last Monday was ‘Blue Monday’, apparently ‘the most depressing day of the year’. A quick google search reveals that the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ was actually coined by Sky Travel in 2005! (The google search also prompted me to listen to New Order whilst writing this blog!) I’m not sure how calling a day ‘the most depressing day of the year’ is meant to be helpful to us but it might just help to sell a few holidays!
It did get me thinking, however, that there is something to this concept of ‘Blue Monday’. It’s January in the UK. Christmas is a distant memory. The days are apparently getting longer but it’s a slow process. I could swear that’s it’s getting darker and not lighter in the mornings! It’s cold! It’s often raining and grey. We’re still awaiting payday! My point is….is it any wonder that all this can affect our mood?
However, regardless of all of the above, it is comforting to know that internally we can access a constant, calm space within us that is always there. It is unmoved by the changing of the seasons. It may be very difficult to access at times, particularly with all the external factors that can affect how we feel (weather, work, relationships, whatever else is going on in our lives). However, this calm, constant space is still there, despite all this.
But how do we access this calmness? Well the first part of this is knowing it is there. Knowing that it can be accessed with practice. A breathing practice, bringing attention to the inhale and the exhale, simply observing the breath, without judgement, can help us begin to access this calmness within. The breath is always with us. But how often do we pay attention to our own breath? Thoughts and feelings will of course arise whilst we observe the breath, wanting our attention, but instead of giving attention to these thoughts/feelings, gently guide your attention back to observing the breath. There are innumerable breathing techniques (pranayama) to help us in finding this sense of calmness within. So regardless of whatever else is going on, with practice we can help manage our stress levels using our own breath, the constant calm space that is within all of us.
Yoga posture (asana) practice is also great at helping us access that calm space within. Bringing our attention to how the body is feeling in a particular posture. The sensations you are noticing in the body and where are you noticing them? Also, breath-led movement, moving the body on an inhale and an exhale, creates a mindful practice whereby we are again bringing our attention, without judgement, to the sensations in the body. How often do we mindfully observe our bodies in our every day life?
And of course there are so many other actions that we can take to help us find this calmness within, a big part of which is to learn to treat ourselves with more compassion (ahimsa). We often find it easier to treat others with compassion than we do ourselves, especially when we’re perhaps not feeling our best. Treat yourself! Find and do the things that you enjoy, those things that make you feel good. Yes, the weather might be less than ideal at this time of year for many of us, but use this as reason to enjoy a cosy night in, a nice relaxing, hot bath, etc. Give some thought to what you can do to help you find that inner calm.
So yes, it may be hard to find that inner sense of calm particularly at this time of year, and it may be easier said than done (I know I’ve felt like that many times!). But there are many ways in which we can all try to help ourselves find that constant inner calm, regardless of all external factors, and before we realise it maybe that third Monday in January, and then the rest of the winter, might not feel so ‘blue’ after all!