It’s the start of a new year, purse strings are tight, that lapsed gym membership card from last year is sniggering up at you from the kitchen table and work is as if you’ve never been away. Here are some ways to beat the winter blues that won’t break the bank (or interfere with your new year regime...)
1. Do Something Creative
Always wanted to write that novel but found a squashed train carriage during Monday rush hour or the half hour between dinner and EastEnders a bit inconducive to your muse? Try a dedicated writing retreat. Retreats For You in North Devon offer you a peaceful rural location to write with all the comforts of home without the effort: delicious home-cooked meals, a hot water bottle and even a visiting massage service.
Best of all, you’ll have the chance to discuss your work informally over a glass of wine with other writers, which, while you’re not obliged to be in anyone’s pocket, gives you more incentive to actually write than you’d have just from going it alone. “It almost feels like I dreamed it up to order,” says one happy recent guest from St Albans. “I feel spurred on and more confident.”
Unlike the hit film Tamara Drewe, the only thing it doesn’t provide is plenty of ripe novel material. Although if you’re a stuck, a walk through the Devon countryside beats the traffic queue for inspiration. If writing isn’t your bag, you could try picking up an instrument you haven’t touched for years, drawing or painting, or even making a cake or pie. (Though the latter two might not be so conducive to shifting that festive bulk…)
2. Give a twist to your New Year’s resolutions
If your resolution really is to get fit, forget going for a run or pilates at the local community centre and try something more original. Frame is a no-strings 80s-themed workout class based in London’s Shoreditch district, where you can shape up learning the routines to Madonna, Michael Jackson and Duran Duran (wearing of leg-warmers and spandex heartily encouraged, of course).
Likewise, if you’re hoping to meet someone new in 2012, instead of going speed dating or forking out to sift through the torturous online dating profiles of people claiming to have ‘a sense of adventure’, why not get out and meet people who actually do? Adventurous Encounters is an adventure weekend for singles taking place this Valentine’s weekend in the hills of Pembrokeshire. Activities on offer include kayaking, surfing and coasteering, and you can enjoy a bonfire on a moonlit beach. Better than the cinema and an all-you-can-eat buffet....
3. Do a Facebook and Twitter prune
If you’re really honest, do you need to know that Johnny who you once sat next to at primary school has just been down to the pub with his ‘awesome lady - love u babe’, or see photos of the temp from your last-but-one job’s 12-week scan? Probably not.
Instead of looking at them three times a day thinking ‘Meh’, why not just do the obvious and get it out of the way? If you’re really worried they’ll see a Facebook defriend as equivalent to setting their house alight, just hide them from your timeline and make sure the people you’re seeing on it are those whose daily lives you’re actually interested in.
4. See the sun
We all know there are some great winter-sun getaways around, but if you can’t quite make it to Thailand or Bondi Beach, try appreciating it a little closer to home. Simply watching the sunrise or sunset at this time of year can be highly uplifting.
5. Wash that man (or woman) right out of your hair
Are you still hung up on that certain someone who seemed so nice at the beginning but now they’re sort of, y’know...? Are you wondering whether to send your dodgy ex a text because it’s new year (or because next week is National Backbone Awareness Week...). Do your dating decisions displays all the boundaries, self-awareness and judgement of a Come Dine With Me contestant? Baggage Reclaim lifts the lid on ‘assclowns’ - emotionally unavailable men and women and those who date them - and will give you just the sassy, plain-speaking reality check you need to ditch the dross in 2012.
6. Be a volunteer
We all feel a bit low at this time of year, but for some, feelings of despair are far more than a case of the back-to-work blues. For instance, The Samaritans offer a telephone, face-to-face and email listening service to those who are suicidal or in distress, and rely entirely on volunteers. Volunteers normally commit to shifts of around 3-4 hours per week, with all expenses covered. Anyone over 18 can train to be a Samaritans volunteer, and initial training takes up to six months. All you need is an open mind and a willingness to listen to people at their most vulnerable.