January is a tough month for many of us, thanks to short daylight hours, dismally empty bank accounts and terrible weather. It is also a long month – 31 days, to be exact.
Taking other factors into consideration (new diets, alcohol abstinence and a pressure to hit the gym), it's not surprising that the third Monday of the month is now popularly known as 'Blue Monday'.
If you're not lucky enough to be jetting off to the Caribbean for two weeks, check out our round up of fun, free, things to do here in Blighty.
don't stop celebrating
Christmas may be well and truly over, but there's no reason why we shouldn't inject a little jollity into the first month of the year, too.
For many Scots (and non-Scots), that means celebrating Burns Night. Falling on the 25th of the month, Burns Night gives revellers all over an excuse to celebrate the life and work of 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns, via drinking, dancing, and hearty grub.
If you've endured a month of dieting, the promise of a good meal (and a dram or two of whisky) might be just the the thing to keep you going. Can't be deterred from that New Year healthkick? Consider taking part in the 10k Kilt Run being held on the 26th January in Embankment, London. Each to their own, eh? You can find some tasty Burns Night recipes here.
Visit a city
After that December rush, the UK's cities are pretty quiet come January. The beginning of the year is, of course, a prime time to enjoy those sales. For a free day out, enjoy a nosey around London's many, many museums – head to South Kensington to check out the V&A's archives, as well as the Natural History and Science Museum collections.
Over in the South West, the Bath Skyline is best walked in January for clear views of the picturesque Roman city. While there, pop into the Holburne Museum or the Victoria Art Gallery (both free entry). Post-Christmas, beautiful historic cities like York and Cambridge are much easier to explore, while Edinburgh will be considerably calmer after those wild Hogmanay celebrations.
To get a shopping fix without actually spending anything, look out for clothes-swapping events across the country, like Betsy's Closet Shop Swap (London). You can exchange up to ten of your pre-loved items with someone else's, so not only will you come away with a whole new outfit, but you'll also save yourself a trip to the skip. That's what we call a win-win.
Embrace the great outdoors
Elle Woods famously says in Legally Blonde, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy". And we have to agree – we reckon a brisk walk, jog or cycle in the open air does wonders for your state of mind.
Whether it's your local park, beach or woodland, wrap up warm and get out there. Visit National Trust for scenic route ideas and to find a good trail near you.
Visit a stately English House
On a dreary January day, what could be better than getting lost in an old castle or stately home? Pop over to neoclassical villa Kenwood House in Hampstead (you might recognise it from the film Notting Hill). With an impressive collection of works by Vermeer, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Van Dyck, visitors can explore the house and grounds free of charge.
Castle Howard (pictured) in North Yorkshire is another beauty. Visitors can enjoy a (free) browse around the courtyard, café, shop and gardening centre. For unlimited roaming with no fee at all, check out Houghton House in Bedfordshire. This 17th century Grade I listed ruined mansion has breathtaking views over the English countryside. Visit English Heritage to find a historic building near you.
find a farm
We suspect that nothing is more uplifting than watching happy, healthy animals running around on a farm. Fortunately, there are a select number of farms in UK that welcome visitors with no entrance fee.
Who would have thought there would be one in East London, though? Mudchute Farm's 32 sprawling acres are made up of wetlands, woodlands, open meadows and fields. Home to ponies, horses, cows, sheep, donkeys, llamas, chickens, geese, ducks and aviary birds, there are countless more wild creatures to be spotted, too.
Similarly, Windmill Hill City Farm is in the heart of Bristol, boasting a wildlife garden, pig pen, hen house, sheep and goats – not to mention a community garden; we can't imagine a nicer escape from city life.
You can see more (free entry) farms in our round up here.
Caught in a funk? Sometimes all it takes is hearing your favourite song, or even podcast to cheer you up. Better yet, blast it out in the privacy of your home, margarita in hand – just like being on holiday (ok, not quite).