Use Running to Fight January Blues

Author profile image of Rob Marshall
Author: Rob Marshall
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Running through January Blues SAD

Christmas is now a misty memory, and the new year has started. This time of year is synonymous with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The disorder affects around 1 in 3 people in the UK, with woman likely to be effected 40% more than men (Study by YouGov and The Weather Channel).

What are the January Blues?

Also known as ‘winter depression’, January Blues is a form of depression triggered by a change in seasons. A chemical change in the brain caused by less sunlight and shorter days.

There is also another level to SADs. Many people who do not suffer from anxiety disorders or SAD find themselves feeling nervous and anxious in the first month of the new year. This can be due to any number of reasons. Firstly the holidays are over and it is a while until the next big calendar event. Darker nights mean less social interaction and less sunlight as people withdraw inside.

More common symptoms of January Blues are:

  • Lethargy, sleepiness, and fatigue
  • Low mood and depression
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentrate
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities
  • Uncontrollable worry

Despite such a large number of people suffering from levels of SAD, a very small percentage (8%) actually seek medical or holistic treatments. 

What Can Help?

A study in 2019 found that spending at least 120 a minutes in nature is linked with good health and well-being. It examined associations between recreational nature contact across seven days and self-reported health and well-being. The study found that a persons happiness peaked when they spent between 3-5 hours a week outside.

Being in the west of Yorkshire it is highly unlikely we will get many sunny days throughout the winter period. On average Leeds has 180 sunny days per year, and sits in the top ten for both the UKs wettest, and coldest cities!

Leeds is number 3 on a list of coldest cities out of 10

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However, the simple act of being outside can boost your mood. Daylight can help regulate the body’s natural cycles, and exercise releases something called endocannabinoids. A biochemical substance that is very similar to the relaxing properties of cannabis. This is often mistakenly known as the runners endorphin high. We go into this in a little more detail in our Mental Health Benefits of Running article.

Physical and mental health are linked. If you set a routine of a daily walk, or go for a run several times a week you could get your allotted amount of nature, sunlight and exercise all in one! 

More after this. Continue reading below ↓

Working a 9 – 5?

If you are someone who works a 9-5 day, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce a bi-daily run into your lunchtime. Use our route finder to see if there are any pre-planned routes near you. Not feeling a run? Maybe eat your lunch in the park! 

We have written about how to motivate yourself as the days get darker in the article Running in Autumn: What to do to Keep Motivated.

Run and Talk

England Athletics along side the mental health charity Mind are aiming to improve mental health with running. 

The idea behind it is that pairing physical exercise with talking can help runners share their experiences and remove the stigma from mental health. Trained run leaders are there to help alleviate issues with stress, anxiety and depression, and will always signpost runners to accessible talking therapies with accredited NHS practitioners

To find clubs that are part of the #RunAndTalk campaign, visit the Run and Talk campaign page and use the club search panel on the right side of the page.

Author profile image of Rob Marshall
Rob Marshall

Rob is a passionate running enthusiast who has dedicated his life to exploring the running culture of England. An avid runner himself, he has helped to start a number of running and tourism websites across the UK, and has been actively involved in the running scene in England since 2017. He loves running and walking, and is always looking for new and exciting places to explore. He is always looking for new and exciting running challenges, and is determined to help make running more accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

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