Let those dark thoughts pass like clouds over head and invest in some mood-altering good habits. Oh it’s hard, isn’t it? All that’s left of Christmas is a hangover, a big credit card bill and five extra pounds of muffin top. January drags and summer is years away. These are dark, dark days indeed.But that doesn’t mean we can’t feel terrific. Here's how...

1. Exercise.

It wouldn’t be January without some talk of an exercise regime. We hear a lot about the physical benefits but the emotional ones are phenomenal too. When we exercise, the body is flooded with feel good endorphins. Even a 10 minute walk has been proven to improve mood for two hours. Exercise gives us energy, reduces anxiety, boosts self-esteem and literally makes us feel powerful – yeah ok, but then why aren’t we all doing it? The trick is to find something we love that fits with our lifestyle. Hate the gym? Try the track. Too cold and dark? Head for the dance studio. No time for classes? Stick on YouTube and unroll your yoga mat. Exercise is easy when you find what you love.

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2. Eat yourself happy

(just not with white bread and Nutella). Feeling good starts with a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Think eight fruits and veg a day, lean meat, legumes and nuts for protein and choose brown bread, pasta and rice instead of the white stuff. Certain foods also affect our brain chemistry and lift mood. Walnuts, kiwis, bananas, plums and tomatoes all help raise the happy hormone serotonin. Turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, beans and nuts also boost tryptophan, an amino acid that the body converts into serotonin. Carbs also flood the brain with tryptophan. Try to choose the healthier carby options like popcorn or a lovely warm slab of fresh wholemeal bread slathered in honey. Good mental and emotional health also depends on a healthy brain. Omega 3 fatty acids are linked to brain health. Find them in oil fish like salmon or mackerel or choose a good quality supplement.

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3. Nature really lives up to the hype.

People feel psychologically restored after sitting outside for just 15 minutes, especially in a natural environment like a park or a forest. It’s also no co-incidence that most people choose beach holidays: being around water is calming. The sound of water puts our minds into a gently meditative state and studies show that we are more creative afterwards. Of course, most of us love the ocean but lakes, rivers, streams and even baths and long showers also have a positive effect.

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4. Try meditation

Even if your idea of sitting still and listening to our breath for ten minutes also happens to be your personal idea of hell. Fidgety? Irritated? Its ok to feel that way. Observe how you feel and let the feeling pass. A daily meditation is a convenient, free, proven route to happiness. We recognise that we are not our emotions. We learn to step back, observe, go with the flow and handle anxiety. And it’s just ten minutes. You can do it.

Put some great happiness habits in place now and enjoy a brilliant year ahead.