blue monday

How to keep your brain active during Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday, it’s the name given to a day in January claimed to be the most depressing day of the year. The third Monday has been given this title due to the accumulation of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and less money in the bank.   With national lockdown in full force again, this and the current social distancing orders have left many feeling anxious and isolated. Not having your normal routine, schedules and healthcare check-ups can make you feel uneasy. Periods of stress can affect regular functions of the brain, this includes memory, attention, thinking, mood and sleep.

It’s more important than ever to re-stimulate mental growth and look after your brain health. Make a conscious effort to wake up early on Blue Monday and name something you’re thankful for. Keeping positive is key during these unprecedented times, the only way we can get through this is together! To share the top tips, we enlisted the help of the experts over at Forest Healthcare.


1. Reading

Processing written material, from the letters, words, sentences and the stories themselves snaps the neurons to attention as they begin to transmit all the information. This happens during the process of spoken language, but the elements of reading encourage the brain to work harder and better. When you are reading, you ultimately have time to think, this allows you to pause and absorb the information with comprehension. This is different to oral language which passes you by.


2. Eat healthier

What you eat now, affects your brain later – this includes your ability to think, remember and process information. Your mind requires certain nutrients to stay healthy, and there is a lot of scientific evidence behind the impact of certain foods. Omega-3 fatty acids can help to build and repair brain cells. Oily fish is a great source of omega 3, there are many different options such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring. Antioxidants reduce cellular stress; this is linked to brain aging. Dark chocolate contains cacao, this contains flavonoids which is a type of antioxidant. Other brain foods include berries, nuts, peanuts and eggs.


3. Sleep

Sleep is an important part of your daily routine, you spend one-third of your time doing it. When you’re lacking sleep, this can affect your whole state of mind. You might find yourself being clumsy and struggling to complete simple tasks. A good quality sleep is important to help your brain work at full capacity when you’re awake. Sleep is vital for the neurons that you’ve been using daily to rest and repair themselves before the next day. Your brain and body stay active whilst your sleep, so it’s important to get the right amount.

Resident sleep expert at Naturalmat, Christabel Majendie, shares how your brain can be affected by lack of sleep:

“During sleep, waste products are removed from the brain by a system called the glymphatic system which is ten times more active than during wakefulness. To allow this to happen, brain cells shrink during sleep to increase the space between them so toxins can be flushed away more easily. This system removes a toxic protein called amyloid-beta.”


4. Writing exercises

In our digital age, writing has become a lost art, writing benefits both the brain and the body in many ways. In comparison to typing, writing on paper feels tangible and real. When we don’t feel like talking to anyone, writing can be a way to get across your voice and release your thoughts. Journaling daily and writing down your affirmations can help us to purge any fear whilst remembering achievements and the future. Another spin on this, is to write with your non dominant hand, according to neurobiologist Lawrence Katz, this will strengthen your mind because it provides a challenge. Allowing yourself to try and accomplish something out of your comfort zone is a great way to increase brain activity on Blue Monday.


5. Monitor your alcohol intake

There is nothing wrong with the recommended unit intake of alcohol, but it can be easy to exceed this during lockdown. Excessive consumption can affect how your brain process information, your body’s response to alcohol depends on a variety of factors including age, gender, health and how often your drink. Whilst some can recover quicker than others, your judgement can be impaired which leads to poor decisions. Always keep an eye on your consumption.