Are you fighting depression this time of year? I know I am. January has been described as the most depressing month of the year. In fact, January 24th has been singled out as the most depressing day of the year. So it’s no coincidence I received some disturbing news in the mail that day. But it wasn’t just bad news that triggered my downward spiral; it’s everything about January.

The gray skies, short days and cold temperatures all contribute to melancholy. For me, sleep is the great escape. If napping were an Olympic event, I’d be a gold medalist. I have this great need for sleep, because depression is downright exhausting. It’s like a full-time job, where you get nothing done.  

I get well-meaning advice from friends. They suggest exercise, meditation and helping others. I’m too tired for any of that. Plus, the things that used to cheer me up don’t work anymore. For example, one of my great pleasures was reading both daily papers, while enjoying a meal. Now the news causes me so much anxiety, it gives me indigestion.

I know people who take medication to even their moods. I don’t take any pills, unless you count two aspirin in the morning. Searching for a remedy, I came across “5 Ways to Survive January,” by Therese Borchard.

Her first suggestion was to “Stop Doing One Thing I Don’t Enjoy.” Well, that’s an easy one: stop going to work. Next is “Clean Out One Area of the House.” I took advantage of the holidays to give my office a thorough cleaning. “Bright-Light Therapy” was another step. I’m not sure what this is but I did replace some burnt-out bulbs. “Try Something New” inspired me to go to trivia night at the Friendly Tap. “Make a List of Lessons Learned” sounds like a good idea but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I received another source of inspiration from a friend, who was visiting from a warm climate. She, first of all, wondered how any of us could survive a Chicago winter. She was visiting families where little kids were bouncing off the walls because it was too cold to play outside. But since we can’t all move to the Southern Hemisphere, she suggested giving Happiness University a try.

This school was founded by Alice Inoue. My friend attended a workshop led by Alice, who is the university’s Chief Happiness Officer. Alice’s school has over a dozen teachers, who love helping others achieve happiness. One teacher has the hopeful title of “Joyful Aging Facilitator.” Students can take on-line courses to help their personal growth. 

At the workshop, my friend learned that humans are hard-wired to be negative for survival purposes and that negativity helps us grow. However, some exercise their “negative muscle” a bit too vigorously and turn into negative people. These people have a fear inside that causes them to become control freaks. We have to protect ourselves from them. They are the reason God invented Caller ID.

The seminar suggested we start meeting, or emailing with positive people. Alice said that positive exists in every negative situation but we don’t always recognize it. So when you enroll at Happiness University, be prepared to learn how to “Create a Positive Mindset in any Workplace;” “Overcome Stress, Worry and Overwhelm in an Hour;” and “Get Along Better with Anyone.”

Now that we’ve solved our January depression problem, I’m reading an enlightening article titled, “19 Reasons Why Mid-February is Hands Down the Most Depressing Time of the Year.”

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.