Christmas music

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas (to paraphrase the song). To help get you in the mood we’re doing a playlist of well-known festive hits. Plus one or two Christmas-related tracks that may have passed you by.

If you have checked out our #SongsForSoundMinds playlist you will know that we like to mix a bit of music trivia with some suggestions for good mental health.  Our new playlist #The12PlaysOfChristmas is no different.

Alongside some slightly nerdy music facts, there will be tips for staying positive through what might be a difficult holiday period. We start with 3 Christmas hits from the early 1980s.

Wham, ‘Last Christmas’


Pop superstar George Michael penned this perennial festive hit, ‘Last Christmas’ in 1984 and it was released by Wham, the band George played in alongside Andrew Ridgely. To this day it is the biggest selling UK single never to reach number 1.

In the year of its original release it was held off the number 1 spot by Band Aid’s all-conquering, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’  Wham mirrored the stars of Band Aid and donated the royalties from ‘Last Christmas’ to the charity efforts in Ethiopia.

Coping with a broken heart at Christmas

The song itself is a poignant tale of frustrated love; a man ditched by his sweetheart after expressing his love. If you are recovering from a relationship breakdown yourself you may be wondering how you are going to cope with the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Especially when everyone else seems happily coupled.

However, as the song’s story relates, a failed romance can be a step to finding ‘someone special.’  It is possible to put regret in the past and to move on.  Indeed the end of a relationship can be a liberating experience.

Rather than fighting for something that was hurtful and time-limited it is possible to look forward with hope and make plans for the future.

Paul McCartney, ‘Pipes of Peace’


Christmas isn’t mentioned in the lyrics of this Paul McCartney track from 1983.  The main reason ‘Pipes of Peace’ takes its place in every self-respecting Christmas Greatest Hits compilation is the accompanying music video.

In it, we are transported to Christmas Day in 1914 when an impromptu football match took place between the British and German armies during the First World War. The news has been full of stories of the end of the First World War and that Christmas truce was a rare moment of humanity in a brutal campaign.

Macca is one of the most successful pop artists ever.  One of his many claims to fame is that he is the only person to have number one singles as a solo artist, a duo (with Michael Jackson among others), a trio (Wings), a quartet (The Beatles) and a quintet (‘Let it Be’ was credited to The Beatles and Billy Preston).

Tell stories, play games and be together at Christmas

 Family get-togethers over the Christmas period can be a good time to tell family stories, tragic as well as funny.  Storytelling can help everyone feel part of something bigger which is an important part of giving life meaning.

We enjoy being part of ‘the gang’ whether it’s with family, friends or work colleagues.  Feelings of togetherness and connectedness are good for even the most introverted of us.  Playing board games together, laughing at a well-worn Christmas DVD or going for Christmas Day walks all add to the fun.

The Pretenders, ‘2000 Miles’


The lyrics of this Pretenders’ track would lead you to think it’s an ode to long-distance love at Christmas.  Although this is not an uncommon theme for songs released at this time of year (‘Blue Christmas’ by Elvis Presley is only one example) it is not the motivation behind this hit from the Pretenders’ peak period.

The subject of this track, written by lead singer, Chrissie Hynde, is James Honeymann-Scott, the band’s original guitarist. Honeymann-Scott had died the previous year from drug-related heart failure at the age of just 25.  The track’s melancholic strains, together with the chiming lead guitar line, remind us that Christmas can bring sadness as well as joy.

It’s ok not to be ok at Christmas

Sometimes, the festive celebrations lead us only to thoughts of those who are no longer with us.  If someone close to you has died the prospect of Christmas may seem unbearable.  Grief takes its toll and it’s a process we all have to come to terms with.

Remember, it’s okay to feel sad, angry or upset. Even though you might experience great pressure to put on a happy face at Christmas time.  These feelings are natural particularly if the bereavement was recent.  Be aware that you may need to put time aside to look after yourself.

But this time of year can also be a positive opportunity. A chance to remember happy times you had with those who have passed away. Tell funny stories, share favourite memories and reflect on their importance in your life.

Christmas can be an opportunity to cherish and keep alive the memories you have of them.

Counselling and support services


The Christmas period can be a difficult time for many of us. Whether it is due to a difficult relationship or memories of a lost loved one, we understand that not everyone is going to have a ‘happy’ Christmas this year.

At The Spark, we have been providing counselling and support to individuals, couples, families and children for over 50 years. Our aim is to help clients to better understand their emotions and experiences, and to find ways to deal with them.

Find out more information about The Spark and our counselling services for individuals, couples and families.

Contact us via our contact form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.

beating the winter blues - image of woman watching a film with popcorn

In the final part of The Spark’s ‘How to cope with the winter blues’ series, we’re offering a few more tips on keeping your mood up when the sun is going down.

You can catch up with part 1 and part 2 where we looked at how a ‘sexy raincoat’, not being Gordon Gekko and embracing the opportunities of the winter season are essential to beating the winter blues.

Beating the winter blues – tip 7: Stay hydrated


Staying hydrated is crucial to maintaining the healthy function of every system in our bodies. From the brain, to the heart and muscles, hydration is vitally important. Water helps carry nutrients to your cells and flushes bacteria from your bladder. Not only that, dehydration is linked to anger, fatigue and mood swings.

To stay hydrated we are advised to consume around 1.2 – 2 litres of water each day depending on our local climate. In the winter the prospect of drinking 6-8 glasses of cold water is rather unappealing. Especially when you are already feeling cold!

Beating the winter blues - stay hydrated with fruit teas in winter

Try these tips on sneaky and easy ways to stay hydrated without having to actually drink 2 litres of water. Soon you will be beating the winter blues and feeling better.

Beating the winter blues – tip 8: Give yourself things to look forward to


In the darkest months, it can feel like there is not much to look forward to. Summer is a distant hope and January seems like a waste of a month. Beating the winter blues can often feel like a battle you cannot win. Fight back by giving yourself things to look forward to instead.

Making plans for the summer is an obvious one but also consider what you can look forward to during winter.

beating the winter blues - image of woman watching a film with popcorn

Make a list of favourite movies or albums and watch/listen to them, one per week, through the winter months. Plan nights out with friends (definitely including some funny ones as recommended in part 2) or spruce up your home with décor to make it a warm and inviting place to spend your evenings.

Counselling and support services


The winter months can be a difficult time for many of us. Practical tools and tips can often help but sometimes we need to dig a little deeper to understand the source of our unhappiness.

At The Spark, we have been providing counselling and support to individuals, couples, families and children for over 50 years. Our aim is to help clients to better understand their emotions and experiences, and to find ways to deal with them.

Find out more information about The Spark and our counselling services for individuals, couples and families.

Contact us via our contact form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.

beat the winter blues by laughing with friends - image of group of friends laughing together

Welcome to part 2 of The Spark’s ‘How to cope with the winter blues’ series offering our tips on ways to defeat the winter blues.

Catch up on part 1 of ‘How to cope with the winter blues’ where we looked at how embracing the winter season, taking up a new indoor pastime and ignoring your inner Eeyore is a great foundation for a happier you. In part 2 we will be looking at the importance of taking a lunch break, changing your coat and having a laugh.

Winter blues – tip 4: Laugh


Serotonin is the natural, feel-good hormone released by our brains when we are exposed to sunlight. This chemical makes us feel happy, calm and focused. But in northern hemisphere countries, our daily dose of serotonin takes a serious hit during winter.

Laughter, however, releases serotonin and a whole load of endorphins too. So when the sun is stuck behind grey winter clouds or you’ve not had the chance to get outside all day, get laughing.

Watch funny programmes and films on TV or online. Download comedy podcasts or pick up a funny book from the library. Pop along to your local comedy club or think of the funniest people you know and spend time with them.

How you do it doesn’t matter as long as you laugh long and hard. To get you started here’s a gem from the nation’s favourite, Michael McIntyre.

Winter blues – tip 5: Use the daylight we do get


Gordon Gekko has a lot to answer for. Michael Douglas’ character in the film ‘Wall Street’ preached that “lunch is for wimps” something we all seem to have taken to heart.

Being chained to your desk is bad for your health even in the summertime when you can enjoy some late evening sun. In the winter months, it’s downright dangerous. There is nothing worse than watching the sunrise and then set again, from behind an office window.

the winter blues - don't be Gordon Gekko. Images of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.
Don’t be Gordon Gekko…

Take advantage of what daylight there is and get outside for a walk, jog or even a run at lunchtime. Meet a friend or colleague for a bit of company and make a point of using the daylight we do get during the winter.

Winter blues – tip 6: Get a sexy raincoat


When the winter weather is trying its best to make us feel like Noah watching the water rise, going outside is the last thing we’d like to do. But as Billy Connolly said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. So get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little!”

Catch up with part 1 of The Spark’s ‘How to cope with the winter blues’ series and find out why embracing the winter season and taking up a new indoor hobby can make for a happier you.

Counselling and support services


The winter months can be a difficult time for many of us. Practical tools and tips can often help but sometimes we need to dig a little deeper to understand the source of our unhappiness.

At The Spark, we have been providing counselling and support to individuals, couples, families and children for over 50 years. Our aim is to help clients to better understand their emotions and experiences, and to find ways to deal with them.

Find out more information about The Spark and our counselling services for individuals, couples and families.

Contact us via our contact form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.

how to be heat the winter blues - take a walk in the winter sunshine

When the days start getting shorter and the nights longer, many people start to feel their mood drop. Unlike Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a form of clinical depression – the ‘winter blues’ is a general term for the feelings of sadness and lethargy we can all experience as the temperature drops and the memories of summer fade.

In this new series from The Spark, we are going to offer our advice on some great ways to cope with the winter blues and make the best of the season.


Winter blues – tip 1: Embrace the winter

Going into the darker months resigned to developing the winter blues rarely helps us get much out of the season. Surprisingly there are plenty of reasons to enjoy and embrace shorter days and longer nights and fight those winter blues.

Plummeting temperatures are perfect for winter sports. Dust off your ice skates, dig the sledge out of the garage or take a look at skiing/snowboarding lessons. Why not try out Scotland’s ‘other national sport’ curling and follow in the footsteps of world-beaters Rhona Martin, Eve Muirhead and David Murdoch.

beat the winter blues by taking up a winter sport like curling - image of curling stones on ice

Remember all those books you planned to read during the lazy summer months but never got around to? In Japan they are called ‘tsundoku’ and winter is the ideal time to knock a few off. While the snow is piling up outside, cosy up with a good read and be whisked away to sunnier climes.

Winter blues – tip 2: Take up an indoor hobby


Just because it’s unappealing to continue outdoor hobbies during the winter doesn’t mean the end of enjoyable pastimes. Pick up an old indoor hobby or find a new one to occupy your time on dark evenings.

Drawing, crafts, knitting, painting, cooking, board games, calligraphy, learn a new language or polish up on an old one.  The list of potential winter distractions is almost endless.

beat the winter blues - take up an indoor hobby like drawing or painting image of paints and paintbrushes

Sporting endeavours don’t need to take a winter break. Channel your inner Darcy Bussell or Bruno Tonioli and take up ballroom dancing lessons. Try yoga, pilates or indoor exercise classes. Hit your local pool or dust off the old badminton racquet.

Winter blues – tip 3: You don’t have to feel miserable


Much of the population turns into Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh around late October and stays that way until April. Committed to being miserable seemingly for no other reason than it being winter and that’s what you do.

When we believe we have to suffer through winter it is natural to look negatively upon opportunities to actually have fun. For example, instead of saying ‘I could go out and meet my friends’ we feel too miserable to go to the effort of leaving the house. Instead of going out for a walk in the bright (albeit chilly) winter sunshine, we stay at home and grumble about how short the days are.

how to be heat the winter blues - take a walk in the winter sunshine

Bottom line? Just because its winter doesn’t mean we have to feel miserable.

Coming soon: More tips to beat the winter blues coming up in parts 2 and 3. Stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook.

Counselling and support services


The winter months can be a difficult time for many of us. Practical tools and tips can often help but sometimes we need to dig a little deeper to understand the source of our unhappiness.

At The Spark, we have been providing counselling and support to individuals, couples, families and children for over 50 years. Our aim is to help clients to better understand their emotions and experiences, and to find ways to deal with them.

Find out more information about The Spark and our counselling services for individuals, couples and families.

Contact us via our contact form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.

january blues

The January blues or winter blues are something we are all familiar with. Gone is the colour and excitement of Christmas leaving behind credit card bills, cold weather and long, dark nights.

Here at The Spark we are saying ‘no’ to the January blues. We want to help you make the most of January!

Beat the January blues this year!


We have put together 10 great ways to help you beat the January blues. Each day we will be posting a new tip to help make the best of the first month of the New Year.


January blues messy kitchenDay 1: Expect a lull after Christmas and New Year

Even though we know it is coming we still go in to January unprepared and almost shocked by its lack of fun. After the excitement of Christmas and New Year, returning to the mundane aspects of everyday life – washing dishes, paying bills, going back to work – catches us by surprise and lays the foundations for the January blues.

Instead of wallowing, accept that January will be less fun than the festive period. Look at January as an opportunity for some self-reflection and take advantage of a quieter few weeks.

Use that extra time to consider what you would like to do, learn or achieve this year. Think about a New Year resolution – read our blog on how to set and keep a New Year resolution – or consider what you want to make this year like for you.


hug-cuddle-winterDay 2: Consider what you have right now instead of focusing on what you don’t

Even if we did get what we wanted for Christmas, in our era of consumerism the chances are we will still end up wanting more. There can be a sort of ‘Christmas present hangover’ when we realise someone else got a bigger, faster or more expensive version of whatever we received.

Try going back to basics and consider what you have right now. And not just in terms of ‘stuff’. What about your health, your family, good relationships with friends or your steady job? Consider how much you enjoyed the Christmas break and what you have to look forward to this year.

A different mind-set can go a long way to tackling the January blues.


Day 3: Have a realistic New Year resolution or resolutions january blues motivation

We have all fallen victim to making bold New Year resolutions that evaporate by the end of the first week in January. Consequently we add more negative energy to the January blues by using our failure as a stick to beat ourselves with.

Take some time to decide on your New Year resolution. There is no law that states it has to be sorted before midnight on 31 December!  Read our article on sticking to your New Year resolutions and set a resolution or resolutions that are realistic in terms of time, finances and other commitments.

For example, setting out to ‘join a gym, work out 3 times a week and lose half a stone in weight by February’ is likely to fail. For starters that 1 resolution actually incorporates about 8 pretty tough resolutions within it:

  1. Join a gym
  2. Get in to a habit of going to the gym at least once a week
  3. Don’t quit the gym after 2 weeks like most people do
  4. Create enough space in my week to go to the gym 3 times per week
  5. Build up to going to the gym consistently 3 times per week
  6. Get a healthy eating plan
  7. Start the healthy eating plan
  8. Stick to the healthy eating plan for more than 2 weeks
  9. Cut out sweets, chocolate and sugar.

Be realistic and consider setting out smaller, more achievable goals to get you started towards your ultimate goal.


january blues divorce-papersDay 4: Don’t give up on relationships

Sadly January is the peak month for couples beginning divorce proceedings. Often the pressure of Christmas and New Year leaves one or both parties to a marriage waving the white flag.

Before Christmas we encouraged couples with relationship problems to seek marriage counselling/ couple counselling in advance. In January we ask that couples consider counselling as a way to heal their relationship wounds before opting for separation.

The emotional, mental and financial cost of divorce or separation is immense – more so when children are involved. Counselling is a genuine alternative to accepting divorce is the only outcome. All too often couples will try to resolve issues privately but counselling is a better alternative. Working with a professional counsellor can provide couples with the opportunity to work through their problems instead of heading straight to court.


Day 5: Commit to an exercise planjanuary blues beat them with exercise

Exercise is good for us, plain and simple. The endorphins and other chemicals released by exercise are the body’s natural way of making us feel good. Beyond that exercise can help with weight management, reduce our risk of serious illness like heart disease and can be a great way to socialise.

Banish the usual ‘it’s too cold, wet and dark outside’ January excuses and get some back up plans in place. Swimming, gym classes or yoga are perfect indoor activities for colder months when a brisk walk or jog is less appealing.


talking-coffeeDay 6: Which relationships do you want to improve in the New Year?

Scientific research is piling up every week to confirm that good, healthy relationships are key to our happiness. More than wealth or status, strong long-lasting relationships are the key to good mental and emotional wellbeing.

 

In January consider which relationships you want to improve or enjoy more of. Instead of dwelling on how those relationships might be in a bad place or have been neglected, consider talking to a relationship counsellor about how to approach key issues in those important relationships. Then you will be able to take some positive and proactive steps towards improving them.


Day 7: Get some daylightjanuary blues beaten with a winter-walk

Though it might not feel like it, from around 22/23 December the days actually started getting longer. Admittedly by only a few seconds at first but by the time we reach late January the days are nearly 4 minutes longer (and lengthening!).

Instead of staying indoors from January to April, plan in a regular lunchtime walk during work or get out at the weekend while the sun is up. Even low intensity winter sunlight can positively impact our mood and January tends to be drier than November and December too! (we didn’t quite believe it either but its true!)

As Billy Connolly always says: “In Scotland there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Wrap up and get out there.


whats-next-blackboard-schoolDay 8: Work on one aspect of your life at a time

Self-reflection at the start of a new year is a valuable thing to do. But it can often become a stick (or several) with which we beat ourselves with. We can end up analysing all aspects of our life and come to the depressing conclusion that everything needs attention. Overwhelmed we do nothing and feel even worse about ourselves.

 

Pick one area of your life and focus on that. Is it your relationship with your partner? Is it a desire to spend more time with your kids? Do you want to get more exercise or learn a new skill? Do you want to socialise more with friends? Pick one area and work on that.

Once you see positive signs of progress, consider adding one other aspect of your life you would like to work on but remember the principles of our Day 3 advice on setting resolutions and goals.


Day 9: Take a look at your jobjanuary blues at work

Few people head back to work in January with a spring in their step. Most of us would happily spend a few more weeks chilling out in our Christmas pyjamas watching our favourite movies. But if you are genuinely unhappy at the prospect of going back, it might be worth taking a look at your job.

It might be time to look for a new opportunity elsewhere. But also consider what you do like about your current job. Are there ways to do more of that? Similarly are there any ways you can think to make your day more enjoyable or interesting?

Alternatively could you move to a different team or department within your organisation? Could you learn new skills to broaden opportunities in your workplace?

You might be surprised how many options are available that could mean you do not need to find a completely new job to get more satisfaction.


Family beach walkingDay 10: Plan a holiday

Getting a holiday booked and in the diary is a great way to tackle the January blues.  And it does not have to be an expensive trip overseas.

Planning a few days off or a ‘staycation’ give us something to look forward to as much as a trip to the sun. The excitement and anticipation of the holiday is believed to release endorphins in a similar way to exercise.

While the January credit card bill might not allow you to book a trip away, there is nothing to stop you getting some ideas and starting planning. When the January blues start to kick in get yourself loaded up with travel brochures and start planning!


Counselling and support

January can be a difficult time for any of us. Relationship issues, financial worries and the winter blues are common at this time of year.

We provide expert private counselling and support for individuals, couples and families across Scotland.

Find out more about counselling or complete an enquiry form. You can also call our counselling enquiries team on freephone 0808 802 0050.