Back to Reality

Bronwyn's picture

A patient told me yesterday that she cried all the way home from her Christmas holiday this year, starting as her car drove up the ferry ramp, all the way back to Vancouver. Back to all of that. April may be the cruelest month, but January is certainly the bleakest, especially if you took the advice from my last blog and let your hair down. Everything that slid off the side of your desk last month reappears in your lap. It didn’t actually disappear; it only waited, and now there it is lighting up like a Christmas tree, begging for your attention. Fun’s over, kids, back to work. It’s no wonder everything feels just a little bit harder this month.

If you feel down in January, it’s not your imagination. Not only are you back to work, but it’s cold, grey, and dark outside. Case in point, the sun set last night at 4:26 and rose at 8:05. That leaves us just over 8 sunlit (aka cloud-covered) hours in the day, most of which you spend under fluorescent lighting. As a result, you’re up against a lot more in your January battle against the blues.

There are several things that can help bridge this difficult period. Everyone’s needs are unique in this regard, as not all of these tools will work equally for everyone. However, it’s a good start, and hopefully the January blues will be short lived. Here’s my top three.


  1. Gratitude. I know, I’ve got the wrong national holiday. Aren’t we supposed to be grateful sometime in mid October? As it happens, this is good for you regardless of the season. In fact, cultivating gratitude all year round is like the gift that keeps giving since it benefits the giver equally. There’s a lot of study about the effects of gratitude on depression. In this context, gratitude is not for the recipient. Sure it feels good to be appreciated, but the person doing the appreciating gets all the health benefits such as improved sleep and mood, reduced anxiety and a greater sense of well-being in general.

  2. Mindfulness practice. In my opinion, this is the single most effective self-help intervention for sleep, anxiety, depression and general well-being. In this study, mindfulness was also shown to improve serum inflammatory markers, improving long-term health outcomes along with the short term effects it has on your mental and emotional health.

  3. Acupuncture. Although I may be a little bit biased, I cannot say enough about this treatment. There are a couple of things happening with acupuncture. Firstly, it stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain to relieve pain and improve mental outlook. The application of this for depression is really clear: it stimulates a sense of well-being to cultivate better, sleep, digestion, libido, and mental clarity. It also regulates the autonomic nervous system, helping guide your body into a state of parasympathetic stimulation (rest-and-digest) rather than the sympathetic (fight-or-flight).


If you don’t feel your mental state improving as the month of January comes to a close, another recommendation I have is counselling with a qualified, licensed mental health professional such as Erica Collyer Beauchamp at Counsel Me Vancouver, or Jennifer Hollinshead at Peak Resilience.

And if you have any questions about how acupuncture and traditional chinese medicine can work for you, call the clinic and book your free 15 minute phone consultation.