For some unfair reason, it’s January again. Cold, grey and without the shimmer of Christmas to look forward to, the third Monday in January has been designated as the most miserable day of the year – and no matter how much we love it, London isn’t immune from the general grumpiness of post-festive season. However, being the brilliant city that it is, London also offers us plenty of opportunities to beat the winter blues, and this guide will show you how.
Jump in some winter water for a mental boost
The likelihood is that Christmas has had a somewhat ruinous effect on the majority of our bank balances, so at £4 for a swim visiting the Parliament Hill Lido is a wallet-friendly way to while away a winter morning. What’s more, winter swimming is free for the under-16s and over-60s! The only catch is that this 60 by 27 metre pool is both unheated and uncovered, and therefore a little nippy. But with the health benefits of cold water swimming thought to include helping people overcome depression, this could be the mood booster you need!
Dedicating a couple of frosty mornings to swimming a lap or two will release endorphins and blast away the mental fog of winter. Of course, if you have any underlying health problems or are new to cold water swimming it’s a good idea to approach the practice with some caution (start slow and warm, and check in with the docs) but for most people, it’s a safe and exhilarating pastime.
Cheer up with a bit of bird watching
Joining the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January may not be a activity that’s exclusive to London, but it’s well worth doing anyway, especially as Londoners can provide vital information on wildlife in the city. To take part, you simply have to count the birds which land in your garden or local park (and London isn’t short of those) over the course of an hour and provide the RSPB with the information you’ve found.
Unless you are the owner of a particularly violent cat and all the local birds have got wise, you are very likely to see something within this timeframe, and this mindful and pleasant activity could ignite a little spark for nature watching that becomes a regular hobby. It’s also an hour which you can forget about commutes, deadlines, heaving streets, shopping and all that other stressful stuff, and focus entirely on counting the lovely winged visitors you may never have really noticed before.
Visit a garden in the sky
If you want a hint of the beautiful Star-Trek future that could be in store for us (if we get our act together) the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street is a good place to be. Free to visit and featuring spectacular views across the capital from the city’s highest public garden, the idea of a leafy green space hovering just below the clouds is a pretty enchanting one, and a visit here could perk you up even on the greyest of days.
Enjoy some cheap eats
It’s undeniable that London is an expensive place to live. In fact, it’s wisdom so well accepted that someone who’s been living in a underwater bunker on a distant planet would know to extend their overdraft before moving here. So in these somewhat miserable months of the new year – with finances stretched and evenings that seem to go on forever – it can seem as if we are destined to stay indoors eating beans until spring. But while London is home to some of the priciest restaurants in the world, it also offers a plethora of tasty cuisines at a very reasonable price.
Heading out to try something new, happily glowing with a full belly and good company, is one way to add some warmth and joy to the winter months. As much as the diet industry tells us that food is fuel and only the weak indulge at this resolution-filled time of year, it’s a cheering and enjoyable part of life, and sometimes self-denial isn’t the best thing for us.
Do gym without the cost
It may not feel like it when your mid-run, short of breath and newly convinced that exercise must actually be very bad for you, but getting fitter can be good for your mind as well as your body. And with GoodGym, it’s also good for your community! Most of us find ourselves shelling out for a gym membership in January, but GoodGym is an affordable and charitable alternative that combines the benefits of exercise with the compassion of volunteering.
With this scheme, you run in order to help out a person who may otherwise find it difficult to fend for themselves – for instance, to change the lightbulb of an older person with motility issues who would otherwise be left in the dark. When we’re feeling gloomy, we can tend to get a little introspective, but helping others is thought to make us happier – and we’ll be doing good for our communities too.
This post was written by Holly Ashby, who is part of the team at the meditation centre Will Williams Meditation. They teach Vedic meditation, an alternative to mindfulness in London, offering beginners courses, retreats and meditation for children.