overcoming the january blues

How Our Pets Can Help Us Overcome the January Blues

Written by Steph McCulloch


In this article, we're taking an in-depth look at the dreaded January Blues, a psychological phenomenon which can significantly impact the way we feel during the new year. We're also exploring how our pets can help lift our spirits and why nurturing this relationship is key to positive well-being.
a labrador laying at the feet of owner


As the warmth and happiness of the holiday season fade away, many of us find ourselves grappling with the notorious "January Blues." This phenomenon refers to a collective sense of lethargy, low mood, and increased stress that often accompanies the start of the new year. The combination of post-holiday letdown, cold weather conditions, and the resumption of daily routines can take a toll on our mental well-being, contributing to feelings of sadness and fatigue.

Amidst the dreary backdrop of January, it is, however, possible to challenge our frame of mind. More specifically by taking the time to appreciate our pets for the unsung heroes they are. During times of difficulty, pets offer solace and companionship. The unconditional love and loyalty they provide become a source of comfort, transforming our homes into havens of warmth and support at a time when we need it most, and ultimately helping us to foster a sense of emotional well-being.

The science behind the January Blues

jack russell laying by owner

The January Blues encompasses a mix of psychological factors impacting an individual's mental well-being. Following the end of the festive season, a notable shift in mood can be felt - usually marked by feelings of melancholy and tiredness. Typical elements that contribute to these feelings include the post-Christmas slump against the unignorable backdrop of British winter weather - rain, sleet and ice. Sadly, many people also find financial pressures from holiday expenses and upcoming commitments a lot to grapple with during January.

In the UK, the January Blues are notably intertwined with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression, prevalent in the winter months. It often manifests through symptoms like persistent low mood, irritability, lethargy, and altered sleep patterns. The lack of sunlight during winter affects the production of serotonin and melatonin contributing to the onset of SAD.

Amidst the January Blues' peak, the third Monday of the month is also known as "Blue Monday” - the most depressing day of the year. While its scientific validity is debated, it serves as a reminder to prioritise our mental well-being - one key way of doing this is by bonding with our pets.

The healing power of pet companionship

a woman sitting in the snow with her two golden retrievers

The therapeutic benefits our pets can bring extend far beyond the realm of mere companionship. Dogs and cats, in particular, offer a unique form of solace through their unwavering affection and unconditional love. The deep emotional connection formed with a furry friend creates a sense of security and comfort, acting as a powerful antidote to the challenges of what can be a particularly difficult month.

One key way of combating the January Blues is by engaging in a new hobby. The joy of pets is that they can often partake in these hobbies with us, or at least keep us company whilst we do them. Though it can be difficult to establish a hobby at a time when you feel particularly low in energy, studies suggest having a hobby ultimately helps to reduce feelings of depression and increase feelings of happiness and life satisfaction.

Engaging in hobbies that involve pets can significantly enhance mental well-being. For dog owners, activities such as running or hiking not only provide physical exercise but also offer a chance to strengthen the human and canine bond. The rhythmic pace of running alongside a loyal companion not only boosts endorphins but fosters a sense of camaraderie.

Cat lovers, on the other hand, can find joy in interactive play. Hobbies like puzzle-solving or DIY activities not only stimulate a cat's intellect but also serve as a therapeutic outlet for you as their human counterpart. The shared moments of play and creativity create a harmonious environment, benefiting both our mental and emotional states at a time when it feels like all we want to do is hibernate.

Scientific research consistently reinforces the positive impact of interacting with pets on mental well-being. Studies have shown that spending time with dogs and cats can effectively reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. And by spending time, we literally mean some things as simple as sitting in their presence, sharing a hug or simply having a cup of tea on the couch with them by your side. The presence of a pet has been linked to lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, contributing to an overall sense of calm and relaxation.

Moreover, the act of petting a cat or stroking a dog releases oxytocin, commonly known as the "love hormone". This neurochemical response fosters feelings of bonding and affection, further enhancing the emotional connection we feel towards our pets. The routine of caring for a pet also introduces a sense of purpose and responsibility, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals grappling with mental health challenges.

In essence, the therapeutic benefits of pet companionship go beyond the surface level of cuddles and wagging tails. The profound emotional support provided by pets, coupled with engaging in activities that involve them, contributes to a holistic approach to promoting positive mental well-being.


a woman holding her cat

January can be a difficult month for many reasons - most notably because it’s the peak of winter when days are darker and shorter than ever. Although this can fill many with dread as days of heat and sunbathing feel like they belong to a world gone by, this particular season can also encourage us to look inward and enjoy time spent at home.

Whilst it can feel difficult to accept sunsets at 4pm, a change to your routine doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Mindfully choosing to spend your time wisely and with your pet by your side can significantly boost your mental well-being.

In the same way that many animals hibernate until the sun shines and the flowers bloom, celebrate the cosy nights, the warmth and the time spent with your pets, we’re sure you won’t regret it.

And remember, though it may feel difficult on the darkest days, the sun will shine again.

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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