Seven Italian ways to beat the saddest day of the year

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Top tips on beating Blue Monday: Italian style. Photo: Toni Birrier/Flicker
13:45 CET+01:00
Feeling glum? You're probably not alone. We've arrived at 'Blue Monday': the name given to the third Monday in January which some people believe is the most depressing day of the year.

Whether you believe in Blue Monday or not (the science behind it is dodgy), January can be a depressing time. Cold weather, scant money due to Christmas spending, and a string of already broken New Year's resolutions all leave you feeling hopeless.

But fear not.

While Italy is nowhere near the happiest country in the world (in fact, it ranks just 51th in the "happy" index by the New Economics Foundation) the country, with its myriad of endearing qualities and quirks, can still lift your spirits if you find yourself in a miserable rut.

Here's how:

Take a passeggiata (walk)

An old man heads off for a healthy passeggiata. Photo: Simon Collison / Flickr

The traditional afternoon stroll taken in Italy before dinner is a big happiness win. To make your you get the maximum happiness-boost from your stroll – head to the park, whatever the weather.

A 2010 study by the University of Essex showed that even five minutes of light exercise carried out in a natural setting was enough to significantly enhance your mood.

Plan your next Italian getaway

Planning a rip to Vernazza could banish the blues. Photo: Daniel Stockman/Flickr

Thinking of a trip to Italy this year, or planning more trips within it? January is the time to plan.

Planning holidays gives you a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. In fact, just looking at that sunny picture of an Italian seaside town is probably making you feel better.

Just think, in a few months time you could easily be relaxing on that very beach pictured above; reading a good book, the scent of sun cream wafting in your nostrils and the sound of the waves filling your ears.

It might sound daft, but researchers from Holland who studied the effect of holidays on reported levels of happiness showed that people reported a greater improvement in their happiness levels when they were preparing their trip than while they were actually basking in the sun.

Have an aperitivo with a friend

Photo: Paturo/Flickr

The aperitivo: one of Italy's noblest traditions – and one which has been helping Italians beat the blues for over a hundred years.

Bars across the country fill up between 6pm and 9pm as friends head out for something to drink and a nibble. No aperitivo culture where you live? No Problem. Just make time to go and grab a post-work drink with an old friend and catch up.

Happy people worldwide do this a lot – numerous studies have shown that the key component of happiness is strong social relationships. So why not work on yours over an Italian-style aperitivo?

Take in a museum

Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo could cheer you up. Photo: Denis Jarvis/Flickr

Italy has a lot of art, a lot of history and a huge number of cultural sites, including a whopping 51 Unesco world heritage sites that you have probably never heard of, let alone visited.

Last year, a record number of 43 million people visited Italy's cultural sites, perhaps down to the the powerful effect cultural sites can have on our well-being.

Museums and art galleries help stop you dwelling, providing you with new experiences, new points of view and fresh inspiration – all of which will make you happier.

You just need make the time to visit them.

Eat a pizza

Life would be miserable without pizza. Pic: Jeffery /Fickr

Money can't buy you happiness – but for a few euros you can get an excellent pizza.

There is a definite connection between food and happiness – and with its hot, crispy base and melted cheese topping, pizza is an indulgent, calorific treat that is the perfect comfort food. You can treat yourself to a double dose of happiness by getting a pizza with a friend.

Still sticking to your new year's diet and don't want to eat a pizza? Then, why not try drawing one...a 2013 study showed that the idea of pizza and happiness were so closely connected that even the act of sketching a pizza led people to feel better about life. It might be worth a try.

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Cook something simple

Wei Duan Woo/Flickr

You don't have to eat out to eat happily. If, like many people, the very idea of coming home from work and preparing food makes you grimace, perhaps you just need some Italian inspiration.

Italian food is delicious and for the most part, simple to make. Anyone can rustle up a delicious plate of spaghetti alla carbonara – and they will be happier for it too.

Cooking helps us develop new skills and is also therapeutic, as it focuses our attention away from our January blues and gives us a sense of achievement: even if it sometimes feels like a chore before you begin.


Photo: Marite Toldeo/Flickr

The world's most popular sparkling wine could be the perfect accompaniment to quite a few of the activities on this list.

But if all else fails and you're still feeling glum, shut yourself away with the best bottle you can afford and remind yourself: Blue Monday only comes around once each year. Bottoms up!  

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