The parties are over, the gifts have been opened and holiday music is no longer playing on the radio. The holiday season is officially over, and it’s time to greet the new year by getting back to life as usual. Some people look forward to this time of year, but others struggle with feelings of sadness and resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse. Fortunately, there are ways to manage the post-holiday blues without drugs or alcohol, and most of them won’t cost you a dime.
1. Join a Meetup Group
Meetup is an online social networking service that allows people to organize and join hobby-based groups in person. Do you like writing or literature? There’s a group for that. What about volleyball or board games? There are Meetup groups for these activities, too. If you’ve made a resolution to get in shape this year, there are hundreds of groups that center around exercise, such as pick-up sports, bicycling, hiking and yoga. Just a few examples of the many available groups include:
- Arts and crafts
- Outdoors and adventure
- Video games
The variety of choices is seemingly endless. These groups allow participants to meet like-minded people and make new friends in their area. Many are free of charge (unless you’re an organizer). To sign up or learn more, go to Meetup.com.
2. Volunteer Your Time
Regardless of where you live, you can find someone in your area who needs an extra hand. The animal shelter down the street may need someone like you to assist with adoption efforts. If you’re not a fan of pets but love kids, your local YMCA might be seeking someone to help with their afterschool program.
Whatever your interests are, you’re likely to find a volunteer opportunity located close to home. Go to volunteermatch.org to find opportunities to support causes in your community, such as arts, culture, advocacy, human rights, education or literature. Volunteering can be a great way to shift your attention to others and transform your blues into gratitude.
3. Foster or Adopt a Pet
Every year, thousands of dogs, cats and other animals are turned over to shelters that help find loving homes for them. Many hold adoption events at venues like PetSmart or have discounted adoption rates on specific dates. Since space is always a scarce commodity at animal shelters, many people who cannot adopt choose to foster a pet instead. By volunteering your care and a spot in your home for a pet, you ensure the animal receives plenty of love while the shelter searches for a permanent family.
When you adopt or foster a pet, you can give an animal a better life while improving your own. According to Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, “Animals are good for everyone, but particularly for anxious and depressed people. For one thing, pets keep us anchored in the present and distract us from negative or anxious thoughts.” Whether it’s a young, senior or special needs pet, adoption or foster care may be the thing you needed to turn your situation around. Visit your local animal shelter or adoptapet.com to find your new furry friend.
4. Declutter Your Home
Take a look at your home. How much of your carpet can you see? Is your closet overflowing with “stuff?” Do you really need or want the items that you see? A cluttered living space can be detrimental to your mental health. Many studies have concluded that clutter negatively impacts mental health, such as the one conducted by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute. The results showed that a cluttered environment can interfere with the ability to focus while limiting the brain’s ability to process information.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until spring to tidy up or even do some major cleaning. It’s never a bad time to start decluttering, and you can start small — one room at a time, one pile at a time. Have three garbage bags or boxes handy: one for items to donate or give away, one for items to dispose of, and one for items to keep. To determine which items go in which bag, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I use or wear it regularly?
- Does it make me feel happy or good about myself?
- Does it have genuine sentimental value?
- Is it unique, or do I have other items like it?
- Would I miss it if I got rid of it?
If you answered “no” to most of these questions, it’s probably time to part with the item.
5. Learn Something New
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t tried yet? Maybe it’s playing the piano or painting on canvas, or perhaps it’s juggling, paddleboarding or crocheting. The opportunities are endless, and now that it’s a new year, there’s no better time to dabble in a new activity.
You can search online to find activities that interest you, or you can learn new skills on your own using resources like YouTube. By learning about a new skill or activity, you might find yourself with a hobby that you love. Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet! Think outside of the box, and don’t just stop at one activity — try several! You’re bound to find something you like and enjoy.
Jackel, Donna. “Depression & The Power of Pets.” Hope to Cope, November 9, 2010. Accessed December 12, 2019.
McMains, S and Kastner, S. “Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex.” The Journal of Neuroscience, January 2011. Accessed December 16, 2019.