Got a case of the Monday blues? Know that you’re definitely not alone: A PLOS One study of more than 63 million Twitter users found that people sent the most gloomy tweets into the Twittersphere at their start of their workweeks.
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“People tend to have more stress on Mondays because they can be associated in our minds with the return to work — and thus a return to stress,” says licensed psychotherapist and Florida-based mental health counselor Chantal Gagnon, PhD. In fact, research from the University College London shows that simply anticipating going into the office raises people’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (Which, BTW, could very well be wrecking your diet, too.)
“[Cortisol]’s primal ‘fight or flight’ response is ideal for sprinting from a lion, but it’s problematic in modern life because we tend activate it in response to things like work deadlines and difficult bosses instead,” Gagnon says. “This can lead to raised levels of adrenaline and cortisol in our body, which can cause fatigue, tension, feeling overwhelmed and even potentially heart damage.”
But we’re here to tell you to relax. These 10 science-backed techinques will help you start your week off on a high note — even if you feel like singing the blues.
10 Smart Tricks to Nix the Monday Blues
1. Grow Some Green
Keeping a plant on your desk can bring some much-needed life and color into an otherwise dreary workspace, says California-based licensed psychotherapist and Live Happy editor-at-large Stacy Kaiser. According to research from Washington State University, when people complete computer work in the presence of plants, they report feeling less stressed, and even have lower blood pressure levels than those who don’t have any plants around. And less stress = more productivity (ya know, since you’ll work instead of worrying.)
2. Take Advantage of Time Off
11:16 a.m.: That’s when the average employee cracks their first smile on Monday
A lot of people use the weekends as a time to either play catch-up or to get a head start on next week’s to-do list, thinking it’ll make Monday easier. But not necessarily: “If you work on the weekend, by Monday you’ll feel like you didn’t have break and dread going back [to the office]. It’s vital for your physical and mental health to decompress, relax, and have fun on your off days,” says Steve Orma, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and productivity coach in San Francisco who specializes in the treatment of stress, anxiety and insomnia. “Enjoy your weekend and be thoughtful about your plans. Ask yourself: What would I really love to do? Allowing yourself to fully recharge will help make it easier to return to work.”
3. Say “Ommm”
“A five- or ten-minute meditation in the middle of your workday can work wonders,” Gagnon says. How exactly? One leading theory is that meditation shrinks the brain’s fear center, called the amygdala, she says. As a result, you experience less anxiety and worry. To Zen out, Gagnon suggests finding a quiet place, closing your eyes and taking three very slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then, begin breathing through your nose only, concentrating on the sound and feeling of your breath. When your mind wanders (don’t worry, it will!), simply turn your attention back to your breath. When around five minutes are up, head back to work refreshed and revived.
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4. Get Organized
Your disposition can benefit from an old-fashioned spring-cleaning any time of year. “You may also want to take a look at the physical organization of your desk and office, as many studies have shown that a cluttered environment increases stress levels,” Gagnon says. Get what you can off of your desk and organized into drawers. Anything that’s left out should be organized too. Field trip to the Container Store, anyone?
5. Smile More
11:16 a.m.: That’s when the average employee cracks their first smile on Monday, according to a 2011 study from British researchers. But even if it’s forced, it will benefit you to smile a lot sooner. A study published recently in Psychological Science shows that the mere act of smiling improves peoples’ moods and helps them recoup from stressful events (like heading into work on Monday morning) faster than if they stay straight-faced.
6. Plug in Your Headphones
“Music impacts your mood, so choosing to listen to a song that you enjoy can put a smile on your face even if you are having the dreariest of days,” Kaiser says. For instance, in one 2015 study published in Psychology of Music, researchers found that listening to tunes can curb biological markers of stress, including increased heart rate, high blood pressure and wonky cortisol levels. Plus, you don’t even have to listen to actual songs to improve your Monday outlook: White noise works, too. According to a 2015 study from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, simply playing nature sounds, such as flowing water, boosts workers’ moods, cognitive ability, and work performance.
7. Ease Tight Muscles
For most of us, physical and mental stress go skipping hand-in-hand, says New York City chiropractor Todd Sinett, D.C., author of 3 Weeks to a Better Back. By eliminating some of the physical stress of sitting hunched over a computer screen all day, you might be able to nix your blues, too. If you are sedentary throughout the day, he suggests making use of the Bruegger’s Relief Position a few times every hour. To practice, sit up tall at the edge of your chair and your legs spread apart. Position your feet on the floor so that they are turned out slightly. Then, roll your pelvis forward and slightly arch your low back so that your chest tilts up. With your arms down at your sides, rotate your hands so that your palms face forward. Separate your fingers and extend your thumbs so that they point behind you. Hold this position while taking 10 deep belly breaths.
8. Pop a Probiotic
Bacteria does your body (and mind) a lot of good. A 2015 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity suggests that taking a probiotic supplement can improve mood. How? Researchers believe that the good bacteria’s ability to lower inflammation and increase levels of feel-good serotonin may have something to do with it. Before taking a probiotic, make sure yours contains strains of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Lactococcus, which were all looked at in the study.
9. Watch a Cat Video
Research has finally proven what we all know to be true: Watching silly cat videos makes you happy. In a 2015 study, researchers from the Indiana University Media School studied 7,000 people and their video-watching habits and found that watching cat videos can improve your mood and energy levels. And even if you’re YouTubing when you “should” be working, researchers think the mental boost will pay off by making you more productive later on.
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10. Look at the Rest of Your Week
Most Mondays blues-ers tend to perk up once they get back into the swing of things, be it by the afternoon or hump day. After all, it’s not necessarily the work, but the transition from weekend to work that is bringing them down, Orma says. “If, however, you dread work every day, not just Monday, something job-related is likely the cause.” Likewise, if you’re happy with things at work at least 70 percent of the time (no job is perfect), that’s pretty good, Gagnon says. If it’s more like 50 percent, changing up either your work environment or your actual job may be in order.
Originally published October 2015. Reposted November 2015.