The idea for Blue Monday came from a calculation involving factors such as cold, wet weather and debt levels. Many of us have come to dread the weeks after Christmas, when the party spirit has subsided and we are left with January diets, empty bank balances and overly-ambitious New Year's resolutions. However, with some positive thinking and action you should be able to beat those winter blues. Here are our suggestions:
Get tickets for a Viennese ball
The Vienna ball season reaches its peak in January and February - and with more than 450 to choose from you should be able to find one which takes your fancy, whether you prefer the traditional waltz or shaking your stuff to a disco beat. Some of the more famous include the Hunters' Ball - Jägerball (January 25th), the Doctors' Ball (January 30th) and the Lawyers' Ball (February 6th). The Coffeehouse Owners' Ball (February 5th) is one of the most atmospheric, and takes place in the Redoutensäle at the Hofburg. Many of the guests end the night at Café Landtmann, after being transported there by a fiaker. And the Bonbon Ball (also on February 5th) at the Wiener Konzerthaus is known for its fun and informal ambiance. Now you really have a reason to dress up and forego another evening at home in your pyjamas.
Go for a hike in the mountains
Being outside, exposed to natural light, helps stabilize serotonin and boosts endorphins, both hormones which will improve your mood. That, combined with some aerobic exercise such as a hike up one of Austria's beautiful mountains, will leave you feeling calmer and happier. And even if the temperatures out there are chilly, the forecast is looking sunny.
Get your sweat on in a sauna
One way to unwind after a stressful day at the office is a visit to the sauna - which has been shown to increase a feeling of relaxation and well-being. The heat of the sauna is also believed to help detoxify your body, and alleviate mild depression. Saunas are a part of Austrian winter culture, most swimming pools have a sauna complex, and even some city apartment blocks have their own communal sauna. They are not for the faint of heart as it can get very, very hot and Austrian sauna etiquette doesn't allow you to wear swimwear. Many are mixed-sex but you will find that some do ladies-only days. And do remember to greet everyone with a 'Gruss Gott!' and a 'Wiedersehen!' as you enter and leave the sauna.
Skating in front of the Rathaus. Photo: Wien Info
Another fun way to get some aerobic exercise, and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors. It's a fun family activity for all ages and once you feel confident and can glide over the ice it can be a great way to relax. For those of you in Vienna the Wiener Eistraum rink in front of the Rathaus opens on January 22nd and is a fun place to spend an afternoon or evening with friends. Other rinks in Vienna include Eishalle Stadthalle at Vogelweidplatz in the 15th district, the Wiener Eislaufverein by the U4 station Stadtpark; and the rooftop Kunsteisbahn Engelmann at Syringgasse in the 17th district.
Allow yourself something delicious
OK, so you've been battling away at your January diet which may involve no alcohol, sugar or dairy and generally reduced calories. But all this deprivation probably isn't helping your mood. There's nothing wrong with allowing yourself one eagerly anticipated ‘cheat day' once a week - when you allow yourself to eat your favourite foods without the guilt. Days on end of eating nothing but grilled chicken or fish and vegetables can wear you down, and a cheat day can bolster your mood and fortitude. If you have a sweet tooth, you might decide to tuck into one of these Austrian delicacies.
Visit an art museum or get creative
Photo: Andrew Bossi
Engaging in the arts has been shown to promote wellbeing - and it could be something as simple as visiting a gallery, joining a choir or dance class or taking drawing lessons. Swiss-born author Alain de Botton believes that art holds the clues to many of life's dilemmas, such as ‘How do I stop envying my friends?' or ‘Why is politics so depressing?' Maybe a visit to an Austrian gallery such as the grand Kunsthistorisches Museum will prove more enlightening than you think.
Do something altruistic
Research has shown that altruistic behaviour is linked to improved health and a greater sense of wellbeing. Why not do something nice for somebody? This could be something as small as complimenting someone, or perhaps you have time to visit an elderly neighbour, or volunteer to help at a charity, night shelter or refugee centre.
Spend an afternoon in a traditional Kaffeehaus
Cafe Braunerhof. Photo:
Feeling lonely. Got cabin fever? Why not spend an afternoon in a Viennese coffee house with a good book or a newspaper. Whilst you pretend to be absorbed in your reading material, you can sit for hours undisturbed, eavesdrop on conversations and people-watch to your heart's content.
Socialise around a vat of melted cheese
It won't win you any points with the health brigade but a cheese fondue is a great way to invite friends over for a meal without spending a lot of time on preparation. If you want to make it healthier you can always opt for vegetable crudites to dip into the cheese, rather than bread. But try not to lose your bread or carrot stick in the pot. It's a tradition that if a man drops bread in the fondue pot, he must buy a round of drinks. If a woman loses her bread in the pot, she must kiss all of her dinner companions.
Party like it's going out of style
When you've tried all of the above, and still need cheering up, perhaps some good old fashioned hedonism is the answer. Get all hot and sweaty at a rock, hip hop or pop concert - there are so many to choose from in Austria's indie music scene. If you're in Vienna, we recommend checking out what's on offer in January at the WUK, Arena, or Stadthalle.