Beat the blues: 6 ways to boost your child's wellbeing and happiness

Cold weather and short days can make January a difficult time of year - with 21 January, known as Blue Monday, said to be the lowest point for many. But what if we started using this day as an opportunity to focus on boosting our wellbeing and happiness?

Encourage your family to make a point of doing something that makes them feel good. Here are some ideas to try with your child (or for yourself).

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1. Collect words of kindness
Encourage your child to spend a time collecting nice things that people have said or written about them. This could be cards, emails, feedback from teachers, or something a friend has said. If the words were spoken in person, suggest your child writes them down.

The process can help to highlight how much they are valued by others, and build self-esteem. Keep the collection in a safe place so your child can find it any time.

2. Write a compassionate letter
Suggest your child writes a letter of support to themselves. If they want, they could address the letter to a ‘friend’. This friend has the same qualities as your child. They have the same strengths and weaknesses, and feel insecure and sad about the same things.

Ask your child what they’d say to a friend who felt as they do. Get them to write their thoughts down, and then address any worries or doubts. Make sure they make an effort to be kind, understanding and forgiving. This is also an opportunity to remind the friend of all their good qualities. Suggest your child keeps the letter and re-reads it whenever they need encouragement.  

3. Create a happiness jar
Make a jar for happy memories. When good things happen, get your child to note it down on a piece of paper, fold it up, and put it in the jar. These events can be big or small.

To kick off, get them to think of a few happy moments in the past week. They can then keep noting things down as and when other positive events take place. Reminding themselves of the good bits of life in this way not only help lifts their mood but can help to build gratitude for everything they have.

4. Take a moment to breathe
Get your child to put aside between 10 minutes and half an hour to relax. Suggest they use the time to focus on doing as little as possible. It should be time to just let themselves ‘be’ and reflect on their day, instead of trying to achieve anything. Help them to create a peaceful space where they’ll find it easy to take time out.

If useful, they could listen to some calming music, or use a soundtrack intended for meditation (Spotify has some playlists for this). Another approach to try is ‘box breathing’ - a deep-breathing technique that can help improve relaxation and focus while relieving anxious feelings. It’s quick and easy to find instructions online to guide you.

5. Give your child’s health a boost
Use the day to focus on your child’s physical health (closely linked to mental and emotional wellbeing). This might be playing some sport or getting out for a walk together, enjoying the feel-good hormones released by exercise. Or you could make a meal for the family that’s both healthy and delicious. Check for inspiration online (try searching ‘healthy’ on the BBC Good Food website).

6. Lift someone else's mood
The mood of those around us affects how we feel. This means our behaviour has the power to boost someone else’s mood. Encourage your child to be mindful of this as they go about their day. What type of vibes do the think they’re giving off to those around them?

If something happens during the day to upset them or their friends, can they find a positive spin on the situation? Are they sensitive to how others are feeling? Suggest they make a point of doing something nice for themselves, and for someone else.

Have you explored the rest of the site yet? Take a look at our advice on topics such as anxious feelings, loneliness and self-esteem.