How to survive Misery Monday

A Cardiff University academic has pinpointed this Monday - 24 January - as the most depressing day of the year: a dark cocktail of foul weather, failed resolutions and overdue Christmas bills. But it doesn't have to be like that. From hot toffee to cold walks, our pundits suggest ways to put a smile on your face
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The Independent Online

Damien Barr, Author of 'Get It Together'

Damien Barr, Author of 'Get It Together'

"January is a time of toxic introspection. People spend too much time thinking about where they're going, what they haven't got and how much debt they're in. It is the busiest time of the year for changing jobs and moving house as people try to improve their lives. You should go the other way. Don't make any big decisions. You're not really rational. It's dark. It's depressing. You should go to the opposite extreme and indulge yourself. I've been cooking, going to the cinema and seeing friends. It's a time to care for yourself.''

Alex James, Blur guitarist

"January is for getting organised. It always makes me feel better. You need to put things in boxes and put labels on them. I've felt a lot better since I did my filing. Going on holiday helps while you're away, but getting back is even worse so it's a gamble. Instead, I like to stay at home and write down what I want to achieve in the year on a sheet of A4. Then I can look at it throughout the year and laugh at my failure to achieve them. My goals for this year are building a robot that can play the guitar and going to Antarctica. January is also a month for dreams."

Jenny Eclair, Comedian

"Indulge in cheap grooming. I would get busy with some tweezers, taking all excess whiskers out of eyebrows and chin. I would remove hard yellow swaths from under my feet with a pumice stone. I wouldn't do this under a harsh light, of course, but by candlelight. This grooming frenzy would leave me with red sores all over my body, but then I wouldn't go out on Black Monday, 24 January. I would be preparing myself to emerge resplendent on Tuesday, when it's all over. I'd even go to the lengths of biting my toenails."

Matt Thorne, Novelist

"Sleep for most of the day. If you get up in the afternoon, you will only have a few hours of the day to deal with. This means that you will avoid conversations with your bank manager and accountant that will drag you down. Don't open your post. Avoid all phone calls. I work at night, so don't normally get up until mid-morning. But I would take this to the extreme on Monday."

Carl Honoré, Author of 'In Praise of Slow'

"One way to beat the blues is to go slow. Instead of racing about trying to do a million things, concentrate on two or three that really make you happy. Whether that means eating with friends, strolling in the park, making love or just taking a nap, the secret is not to rush."

Dr Robert Holden, Founder of The Happiness Project

"I'd laugh. Laughter is a medicine with tangible, physical effects as well as subtle, therapeutic emotional, mental and spiritual effects. During laughter, the body is stimulated and exercised; after laughter, the body relaxes and calms itself. Laughter is often, therefore, a most effective method for inducing physical and mental relaxation.''

Dom Joly, Comedian

"I'd stay in a one-room bungalow in the Falkland Islands for three days; that really is the most depressing place in the world. I would sit there contemplating just how bad life would be if I was sent there for eternity. When I came back, I would appreciate how lucky I was. If the Falklands isn't a possibility, try Newfoundland. But don't stay in either place for longer than a few days as this may prove fatal."

Virginia Ironside, Agony aunt

"Once you know something bad will happen, you have already taken away half its power. Bad things don't like to be predicted. It weakens them. If you go to sleep at night thinking, 'I'm going to have a terrible day tomorrow', you're much less likely to feel awful when you wake. It's like two opposing armies. If the enemy can see you limbering up the night before, sharpening your arrows, they get unnerved. This is what you must do to prepare for battle with the forces of doom on 24 January. Organise something to get up for, like a jolly evening with friends."

Ruut Veenhoven, Psychologist

"I have ranked countries according to the happiness enjoyed by each nation and the happiest are not necessarily those which get the most sun. People in Britain may be cheered when the sun comes out, but many hotter countries score badly on happiness. So, my advice is, don't worry about the weather, work on your relationships and be active. Staying in and watching television isn't going to help."

Douglas Kennedy, Author

"Leave the country. If you can't, go on a culture binge. When I'm having an attack of the black dog, I want to hide and the cinema is best. I'll spend the day at the National Film Theatre. I have been known to see four films in a day in winter. You indulge, but not in a way that makes you feel sick and guilty."

Shelley von Strunckel, Astrologer

"Excess pounds, both owed and acquired, aside, there's no reason for any January to be depressing. But, as it happens, on this particular 24 January, the emotional moon meets the dour Saturn, which means that if you haven't put yourself on a budget and a diet beforehand, you could be facing some grim realities."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Food writer

"My solution to the winter blues, whenever they strike, is to make pancakes, as often as three or four times a week if necessary. Melt a packet of toffees in a little milk, slice a banana, and have hot and gooey toffee and banana pancakes. Then, if at all possible, have sex."

Lewis Wolpert, Author of 'Malignant Sadness'

"First, you need to distinguish between feeling low and being depressed. They are two completely different things. If you can describe your depression, you haven't had one. If you're feeling low on Monday then for goodness sake, take some exercise. There's no one I know who takes exercise and doesn't feel better afterwards. Have a nap after lunch, a glass of champagne in the evening and sex if possible. Sounds like a perfectly nice day to me."

Carole Caplin, Health and fitness consultant

"First, forget making resolutions - use this month to move towards making more long-lasting and satisfying changes in your life. Even though it may be the last thing you want to do, make going for walks a priority. Walking in rainy and cold, windy weather can be very invigorating and uplifting. Enjoy your food, forgetting snacks and faddy foods; have hot nutritious meals instead. Cut out coffee, tea and alcohol; increase your water intake - your physical and emotional body will be very grateful. Take the supplement magnolia if you are feeling particularly low. To perk you up, go and see some funny and inspiring films and plays, especially on the weekend before the 24th. It's also a good idea to plan your next holiday. Early nights, lots of at-home pampering, quiet evenings inwith your friends, and catching up on all your chores should ensure you breeze through the 24th."