How to conquer the January blues

11 January 2020

After all the hustle and bustle of December, being back at university and back to old routines can leave you feeling a little under the weather. PhD student Shiyi gives us her top tips on how you can fight back and conquer the January blues.

Girl with sad expression in denim shirt

With high expectations for the upcoming year, we all positively outlined and detailed our New Year’s resolutions. However, within just a week, the January vibe can make you abandon all you ever promised yourself.

The first month of the year can be an overwhelming struggle. Not only because it can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but also the cold weather, lack of sleep, short days and back-to-work stress after the holidays can all amount to a bit too much. If you’re feeling a bit down, be assured that it is very common at this time of year and can happen to anyone. Here are some tips to help you conquer the January blues.

Start something new

It’s easy to feel stuck when you get back to work in January - you’re researching the same topics for coursework and have buried yourself deep in textbooks and journals. Trying something new can help you overcome boredom and negative feelings. It can be absolutely anything. You could try a yoga session, watch a movie in a new cinema, try restaurants you’ve never been to or even learn to play an instrument. Starting something new will distract you from the struggles and help you beat the January blues.

Eat well

Treat yourself. Collect your friends or make a solo trip to some of your favourite food spots. Biologically, eating certain foods we like can lead to the release of dopamine, a chemical which is most related to feeling of pleasure. Fruit such as apples, bananas, and berries are known for dopamine release. Dark chocolate works very well too! Look out for more dopamine-triggering foods

Redecorate your space

January is often associated with new beginnings, so why not mix things up and redecorate your living space. Whether it be your entire house/flat, just one room or even just your desk; be creative and adapt your surroundings to suit you. This could be as simple as a splash of paint, changing your duvet covers or ensuring all bedroom accessories fit within a certain theme. If you're feeling up to the challenge you could try rearranging furniture or putting up some wall decals.


With all the social gatherings and festivities in December, we may find ourselves a little sluggish throughout the start of January. It’s always a good idea to get some exercise, as it can lift your mood and help you sleep better. It doesn’t need to be a full-hour exercise in a gym; just a 10-minute walk to the local shops or some light stretching at home will work wonders. Physical exercise raises serotonin levels, which are normally low when you have the winter blues.

Book a treat

Whether it be a holiday, a weekend away or even just a trip into the city with a few of your friends, planning something to look forward to can boost your spirit as you count down the days. When you're feeling low, it's always nice to be reminded of the positive things that await! As great as it is to spend time with friends and family, doing things solo allows you to go at your own pace, reflect and improve your self-esteem. Why not book a ticket to see your favourite artist in concert, have a spa day, dine for one at your favourite restaurant or travel solo (across the city or the world!)

You are not alone

If you’re finding it difficult to beat the January blues, know that you are not alone. Talk to your friends, family, GP and (personal) tutors. You can also contact UCL Student Support and Wellbeing via askUCL or attend one of their drop-in sessions, without needing an appointment, for a helpful conversation with an adviser, who can also refer you on to other services if needed.

Remember that summer is a state of mind – the January blues shall be conquered!

Shiyi Jiang, PhD student in Film Studies