Blue Monday, known as “the most depressing day of the year” is upon us. It’s the day when most of us are supposedly down in the dumps because of colder and more miserable January weather, faltering New Year’s resolutions, and a long way to go till payday.
Although Blue Monday originated from a 2004 press release by a travel company, in which psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall devised a formula to “calculate” the bleakest day of the year, it continues to be a way of explaining why some of us feel more depressed around this time.
Around two million people in the UK experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which has symptoms similar to depression such as a low mood, lethargy, and feeling less interested in hobbies and socialising.
In January, when all the Christmas lights and decorations have been taken down and most of us are starting work and finishing work in the dark, it can exacerbate that feeling of sadness and depression.
However, one of the ways to combat the blues is to stimulate the release of endorphins in the body. These are often dubbed “feel-good” chemicals that the body releases during certain activities that help relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve mood.
Some exercises, particular those that involve a lot of movement, can help the body release big hits of endorphins that could help you banish Blue Monday for good.
Watch: Five ways to lift your spirits on Blue Monday
Fitness trainer Holly Braithwaite, co-founder of fitness app POW8R, shares her top exercises for maximising endorphin release.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
This form of exercise involves doing short bursts of intense exercise, followed by brief periods of rest. According to Braithwaite, it is one of the most efficient workouts for boosting endorphins.
“HIIT workouts are fantastic for releasing endorphins because they push your body to the limit in a short amount of time, leading to a surge of the feel-good hormones," she explained.
"The intensity and variability of HIIT not only stimulate endorphin release but also promote calorie burn and overall fitness."
Group fitness classes
Socialising while exercising can be really beneficial for our mental wellbeing, as we work out our bodies while connecting with others.
Whether it’s a spin class, dance session or boot camp, Braithwaite said: "The social aspect of group fitness can't be underestimated. The camaraderie and shared energy can significantly amplify the endorphin release.
"Group fitness provides a supportive environment that can turn a potentially gloomy Blue Monday into an uplifting and empowering one."
Running or jogging
You might not want to step out into the cold, but running or jogging in chilly weather can do wonders for your mood.
"Running or jogging stimulates both the cardiovascular and nervous systems, triggering a release of endorphins that can last for hours," Braithwaite said.
"The rhythmic motion of running, coupled with exposure to fresh air and sunlight, can contribute to an overall sense of well-being."
According to the fitness trainer, "yoga combines physical movement, breath control, and mindfulness, creating a holistic experience that promotes the release of endorphins and reduces stress”.
"Whether you prefer a vigorous Vinyasa flow or a calming Yin session, yoga can help alleviate tension and enhance your mood."
Dancing is a great way to release stress and tension, with a bunch of endorphins thrown in for good measure.
It’s a "joyful form of exercise that not only elevates your heart rate but also taps into the expressive and creative side of fitness".
"Dance workouts, such as Zumba or dance aerobics, can make exercising feel like a celebration, releasing a flood of endorphins to lift your spirits."
Read more about mental health and exercise:
'Exercise snacking' is the new workout trend that can boost your mental health (Yahoo Life UK, 3-min read)
Swapping screens for exercise for just 30 minutes a day could transform mental health (Yahoo Life UK, 3-min read)
Personal trainer reveals the 5 simple at-home exercises you should do this winter (Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read)