Seven very Italian ways to beat the January blues

Seven very Italian ways to beat the January blues
Planning your next trip to Italy might help cheer you up. Photo: Valerie Hache/AFP
The combination of the winter weather and return to work after the holidays can leave anyone feeling a bit down in the dumps.

If you're an expat who spent the festive period with friends and family back home, it can be particularly tough to face the challenges of life in a foreign country again.

But embracing the Mediterranean way of life could help inject some joy into the grey-skied days of January. 

In Italy, simple pleasures are key, and this is thought to be behind the huge numbers of super-centenarians (people who live beyond 100) in the country. 

So, here's how to beat the January blues – Italian style.

Take a passeggiata

Photo: Umbria Lovers/ Flickr

The traditional afternoon stroll taken in Italy before dinner is a big happiness win. To make sure 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.

READ ALSO: 17 of the most beautiful parks and gardens to visit in Italy

Plan your next Italian getaway

Photo: Pedro Szekely/Flickr

Thinking of a trip to Italy this year, or planning more trips within it? January is the time to plan, and we have plenty of suggestions. Planning holidays gives you a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. Picture yourself relaxing on the beach, reading a good book and sipping on even better wine. 

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: Winniepix/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. And if you're outside Italy, make a date with a friend to catch up over drinks and nibbles. 

Numerous studies have shown that the key component of happiness is strong social relationships, while enjoying alcohol and snacks in moderation means you won't feel any guilt for over-indulging.

Take in a museum

Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo. Photo: Mario Sánchez Prada/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. Each year record numbers visit the country's monuments, perhaps down to the the powerful effect cultural sites can have on our well-being.

Museums and art galleries help stop you dwelling on your own problems and provide 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.

READ ALSO: From taps to ancient erotica, 15 of Italy's weirdest museums

Eat a pizza

Photo: Guillaume Flambeau Von Uslar/Flickr

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 the perfect comfort food. 

And if you don't feel like indulging, why not try just 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.

Cook something simple

Photo: Luca Nebuloni/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 or cacio e pepe – and they will be happier for it too.

Cooking helps us develop new skills and is also therapeutic, as it focuses our attention on the task at handand gives us a sense of achievement, even if it sometimes feels like a chore before you begin.

READ ALSO: Ten golden rules for cooking pasta like the Italians, from an artisan pasta chef


Why Italy wants Unesco heritage status for its Prosecco hillsPhoto: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

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: January only comes around once each year. Bottoms up!  

READ ALSO: Not just Prosecco: here are the other Italian sparkling wines you need to try

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