If you are struggling early in this new year with depression and a heaviness in your heart you are not alone. January depression, January blues, winter blues, whatever name you want to put to it, is a real thing. A scientist in the UK has labeled it acute post-bank holiday depression. Others attribute the feelings of gloom to SAD, seasonal affective disorder which affects 1 in 15 people. Some have labeled the third Monday of January the most depressing day of the entire year while others have declared January 24 to hold the title. All of the titles and specific days don't change the fact that many people fight an enormous battle with depression in January. It can be so difficult that it's probably wise to NOT make any life changing decisions in January since you can't be sure the decision is based solely on how you feel rather than good decision making practices.
Why is January so tough? The holidays are over which creates a let down. The bills from Christmas come rolling in, the days are often dark and overcast and snowy. Less time is spent with friends and family as there are no holidays or occasions for celebration. There are many other factors which influence the feelings of gloom and sadness. How do these feelings of depression affect the person who loves Jesus and should have joy in their heart? Are they just not trying hard enough? Not praying enough? Not giving their problems to Jesus?
Those of us who experience periodic bouts of depression know that prayer can help but there are psychological and environmental factors as well. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that somehow God is not sufficient for the person with depression. He can meet every need. But telling a person in the depths of depression that they aren't praying enough is not a remedy. There are things you can do along with prayer and counsel from a pastor or caring friend that can help navigate this most depressing of all months.
Doctors recommend getting outside, even if for just a 15 minute walk around your neighborhood. The fresh air and the increased exposure to sun (even if it's overcast - remember, it's possible to get a sunburn on a cloudy summer day) can brighten your mood and boost your serotonin levels.
Don't hibernate. Sleeping for hours on end might seem like an easy way to pass the time and get through a difficult month but it actually makes you less likely to snap out of that winter funk. Instead take short power naps if you're sleepy and spend your waking hours doing something productive.
Often when people are depressed they don't want to spend time with others but that is exactly what can help boost your mood in a difficult time. So, get together regularly with people who build you up.
Other suggestions for the winter blues: a. Clean out one area of your house that needs some attention. It will make you feel productive and useful. b. Try something new. My parents blessed me with tap dancing lessons at Christmas. After 2 lessons I find it's something I look forward to each week and it's a wonderful brain break. c. Take some time to think through the lessons you learned over the last year. This will help you realize that life is beautiful and worth waking up for.
More important than all of these suggestions though, is turning your struggle with depression over to Jesus. Reminding yourself that even in your darkest night he is with you, he is your lifeline, your shield and defender, your protector, your joy and your sufficiency - this is your first line of defense, not your last. Psalm 40:1-3 and Psalm 42:11 are excellent verses for those who are struggling with this.
Psalm 40:1–3  I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
Psalm 42:11  Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.