Seven very Spanish ways to beat the January blues

The combination of the winter weather and return to work after the holidays can leave anyone feeling a bit down in the dumps.

Seven very Spanish ways to beat the January blues
Wrap up warm and head outside. Photo: Rodin/Flickr

If you're an expat who spent the festive period with friends and family back home, it can be particularly tough to face the challenges of life in a foreign country again.

But embracing the Mediterranean way of life could help inject some joy into the grey-skied days of January. 

In Spain, simple pleasures are key, and this is thought to be behind the huge numbers of super-centenarians (people who live beyond 100) in the country. 

So, here's how to beat the January blues – Spanish style.

Take a paseo

The traditional afternoon stroll taken in Spain before dinner is a big happiness win. To make sure you get the maximum happiness-boost from your stroll – head to the park, whatever the weather.

2010 study by the University of Essex showed that even five minutes of light exercise carried out in a natural setting was enough to significantly enhance your mood.

And because it’s winter, that means wrapping up warm even if it’s quite balmy outside. Spaniards will make sure they are wrapped up, and Spanish grannies wear their huge fur coats until the official end of winter in late March.

Plan your next Spanish adventure

Spain is just waiting to be explored. Photo: Rvdo. Kaskajales / Flickr

Thinking of a trip to Spain this year, or planning more trips within it? January is the time to plan, and we have plenty of suggestions. Planning holidays gives you a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. Picture yourself relaxing on the beach, reading a good book and sipping on even better wine. 

Or pick one of Spain’s wild and varied fiestas to enjoy this year and start preparing, whether that means buying tickets for a music festival before it sells out or signing up for Sevillana classes in preparation for Seville’s Feria de Abril.

It might sound daft, but researchers from Holland who studied the effect of holidays on reported levels of happiness showed that people reported a greater improvement in their happiness levels when they were preparing their trip than while they were actually basking in the sun.

Head to the mountains

The resort of Formigal in the Spanish Pyrenees is a skiers dream. Photo issued by Formigal Aramon resort

You can’t escape winter, even in Spain, so why not embrace it and make the most of it. Spain has some great ski resorts, that may not be as extensive as what you will find in the Alps but will certainly be cheaper and less crowded.

There’s the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada to choose from but also smaller resorts in the Picos de Europa and even decent ski-ing to be had on a day trip from Madrid.



Photo: James Pallinsad/Flickr 

Eating and drinking socially is an essential part of Spanish life and while it may be too cold and gloomy to take place on a sunny terrace, you can guarantee it’s happening even during the belt-tightening post-Christmas lull.

So find some friends and head out for a vermut or a glass of vino and make sure to try some of the delicious tapas only on offer during the winter months.

Numerous studies have shown that the key component of happiness is strong social relationships, while enjoying alcohol and snacks in moderation means you won't feel any guilt for over-indulging.

READ MORE: Top ten heartiest tapas to enjoy when it's cold outside

Indulge in some comfort eating

There’s nothing quite like a hearty stew to warm your insides on a cold winter’s day and Spain knows exactly what it’s doing in this regard.

Whether it’s a Cocido Madrileño or an Asturian fabada, there is something very satisfying about a deep bowl of chunky meat swimming in a rich sauce with beans or chickpeas.

READ ALSO Cocido and siesta: How to survive winter in Madrid

Visit a museum 

The Prado Musuem, Madrid Photo: AFP

Spain is home to some of the best museums in the world. The Prado in Madrid recently ranked above the Louvre on the list of the world's greatest museums. And if you're looking for something a bit quirkier, why not check out some of Spain's weirdest and wackiest museums… Museum of Toilets anyone?! 

Enjoy churros with hot chocolate

Photo: Toni Kaarttinen/Flickr.

Though they can be enjoyed year-round, there is nothing quite like sitting down to enjoy deep fried dough sticks dipped into thick rich chocolate to warm you up from the inside. 

And because summer is still months away, you don’t need to worry about ‘operation bikini’ quite yet. 

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Spain’s capital delays reopening of schools after historic snowfall

Madrid's regional government on Friday postponed the opening of schools until January 20 because many roads remained blocked a week after Spain's worst snowstorm in decades.

Spain's capital delays reopening of schools after historic snowfall
Children riding sleds are pulled by their parents amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021: AFP

The region's 2,557 schools had been set to reopen on Monday but access to over half of them, or 57.6 percent, remains difficult because of the snow and ice, the regional government said in a statement.

Clean-up crews will “continue working intensely over the following days” to ensure school can open as planned, it added.

Storm Filomena dumped 50 centimetres (20 inches) of snow on Madrid between last Friday and Saturday, leaving the city and large swathes of the country impassable.


The storm had been blamed for five deaths. It was followed by several days of plunging temperatures, which hardened mounds of snow and slush.

ANALYSIS: Should Madrid be declared a disaster zone as true cost of storm damage emerges?

While main arteries have been cleared, hundreds of side streets remained caked in snow and ice which has disrupted post delivery and rubbish collection, with huge piles of refuse piled up around overflowing bins across Madrid.

A pile of garbage bags is pictured in Madrid on January 14, 2021. Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

READ ALSO: IN PICS: Spectacular images of snow-covered Spain from the air

About a third of all streets, or 30.3 percent of all streets have been cleared, according to Madrid city hall which estimates the storm caused at least 1.4 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in damage.

Madrid mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida said the storm dumped more than 1.2 million kilos of snow on the city, enough to form a line of trucks stretching from Madrid to Brussels.

He has called on the central government to declare the area a disaster zone, a move that would trigger emergency aid and other measures.

But the central government wants to wait for a final evaluation of the damage before it decides whether to declare Madrid a disaster area, Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos told reporters.

People walk amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Meanwhile, Madrid three main art museums — the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia, the home of Picasso's masterpiece “Guernica” — all announced that they would reopen on Monday for the first time since the storm hit.

People enjoy the snow outside the Royal Palace in Madrid on January 9, 2021. Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

READ ALSO: LATEST: Big freeze across Spain set to last into next week

READ ALSO: Ten phrases to talk about cold and wet weather like a true Spaniard