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How to protect your mental health ahead of 'Blue Monday'

Did you know that the Winter blues affects 15 per cent of the Canadian population?
Seek light. Move your body. Get some fresh air.

Feeling blue?

That is pretty common this time of year.

Jan. 16 marks "Blue Monday," a day dubbed the saddest day of the year due to failed New Years' resolutions, piled up debt from the holiday season and the dark days of winter.

The Canadian Mental Health Association says quite a few people are affected by seasonal affective disorder.

"Winter blues is a milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as S.A.D. and it actually affects 15 per cent of our Canadian population so it is a little bit more common," said CMHA communications director Emma Jones.

"Certainly we know and understand that we live with anxiety and depression all year long, but the reasons that it can feel a little bit more impactful to our moods is there are shorter days, the light is a little bit less."

Jones says basic activities can help counter act sad feelings.

"Let the light in, get outside if you are able to. Perhaps light therapy is another alternative. Physical activity has immense support on our mood and our mental health all year long. We know that it can decrease our stress, reduce anxiety and depression, help you think better and increase self-esteem."

Associate professor of psychology at UBC Okanagan Dr. Maya Libben says it is important to identify the root cause of the emotion.

"It is important for people to consider what their traps might be in terms of perhaps how they are thinking, how they are structuring their work week and so often people can experience blue Mondays because of what we call cognitive distortion."

"These are unhelpful thinking styles that might be a little bit more prevalent on Mondays and so this would be things like catastrophizing... so things like oh my gosh this week is going to be so brutal, it is going to be so hard how am I going to get through it," Libben said.

She says positive thinking goes a long way.

If you are struggling with depression and anxiety and it is hard to control you are advised to contact your doctor for help and advice.