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Christmas is over. New Year celebrations are over. It’s still dark outside, but this time, instead of mince pies and Quality Street, you’re going home to a wilted salad.
Unless it’s your birthday this month, January is nothing but a 31-day chasm of despair.
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To confirm the bleakness of this month-long post-Christmas hangover, the third Monday of January is officially the most depressing day of the year.
Monday 16th January 2017 is Blue Monday, the day when science says it’s OK to sit in the corner all day, sobbing silently and refusing to talk to anyone.
Well, ‘science’ is a loose term. A press release by holiday company Sky Travel, under the name Cliff Arnall, published a formula stating that variables such as weather conditions, how bad our debt is, amount of time since Christmas, how long it’s been since we failed our New Year’s Resolutions and low motivation levels contribute to a mass depression on this day every year.
The formula has been labelled as ‘pseudoscience’ – in other words, it’s rubbish.
However, the day is observed without fail once a year by those convinced that January is the worst month to be alive.
Who is this Arnall fellow and why has he given us all a reason to be even more miserable than usual once a year?
Well, according to his Twitter bio, he’s ‘Author of the Blue Monday formula’ and an ‘activist to stop Blue Monday.’
It’s too late, Cliff.
He’s also a life coach and happiness consultant, apparently. Looks like someone’s trying to repair the damage they caused.
Unfortunately, Blue Monday is observed once a year, without fail – so it looks like Cliff has RUINED JANUARY FOR US ALL.
Well, we need someone to blame for our failed New Year’s resolutions, right?
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January can be a great month for many different reasons, most of all that a new year has just begun that we can use to fulfil our New Year’s resolutions and achieve any number of other things we’ve decided to put out minds to. However, a cold, cloudy January can also be quite the comedown after the festive holiday season that preceded it, one that was filled with the very scrumptious dishes that caused us to gain the weight we’re endeavouring to lose in the first place. So, to be fair: of all the months of the year, January can be considered the bleakest of them all. And that’s what the folks at Sky Travel were getting at.
The History of Blue Monday
Blue Monday was created back in 2005 by Sky Travel Shop, a television channel devoted exclusively to programs about travelling, documentaries and commercials for travel agencies. The day was originally part of a publicity campaign, but later gained popularity and its share of both supporters and opponents, and seems to generally be here to stay. The date varies from year to year, depending on a variety of factors, such as weather, debt, the time that has passed since Christmas day, the time that has passed since we failed at fulfilling our New Year’s resolutions, low motivational levels connected with previous failures, and the need to take action. The formula for calculating which day is the “bluest” day of the year has been mocked by many academics as pseudoscience, as it does not use any specific units and does not seem to be particularly foolproof. Nevertheless, it was published under the name of Cliff Arnall, who had at that time been a tutor at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, a Further Education center attached to Cardiff University.
How to Celebrate Blue Monday
Pseudoscience or not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a look at the month of January with an open mind, and being honest with yourself as to what you could try your best to do better at for the remainder of the year. Failed New Year’s resolutions are very common, so if you have in fact failed at persevering, now would be a great time to think a bit about why that is and how that could have been avoided. Next, you can create a new resolution or two and, wiser now than before, succeed at them this time around.
Think about how you managed your resolutions, and if you didn’t set yourself up for failure right off the bat by creating unrealistic expectations of yourself. Did you decide to go vegan starting January first? Going vegan is a big move, and of course an honorable one, but it is also quite challenging, especially if you were eating steaks and yogurt and and sunny-side up eggs just the day before. Deciding that you will suddenly cut every single animal product could be much more of a sacrifice than your body is ready to make literally overnight, and so you may find yourself sliding withing a few days, only to feel miserable for failing. So instead of going vegan, perhaps go vegetarian for a while first to help your body get accustomed to your new eating habits. Then, after a few months, when you feel ready, it will be time to take the next step. In short, take this day to re-plan your resolutions so you can get them right the next time around.
The Myth Of “Blue Monday” Just Won’t Die
Every year we’re told that the third Monday in January is “Blue Monday,” the “most depressing day of the year.” There’s zero actual science behind that assertion, yet here we are again, facing another supposedly maximally-depressing day. So where did this silly idea even come from? As we explained previously, the original equation that gave us Blue Monday was created by “psychologist, life coach, and happiness consultant” Cliff Arnall for a travel company’s ad campaign. He took various factors into account, including how long it’s been since Christmas, the amount of debt people are facing, and, of course, the weather. But since its introduction, the Blue Monday equation has faced an onslaught of criticism as both demeaning the severity of actual clinical depression and as yet another example of problematic pseudoscience gone mainstream. Obviously, there’s no such tidy equation for clinical depression, which is a disorder far more complex than an episode of “holiday blues.” And even if we’re just talking about a shift in your normal mood, that’s something so personal and individual that it could hardly be captured for even the majority of us with a single equation. At this point, no credible expert will tell you there is a universal “most depressing day of the year.” Arnall himself has since begged us to ignore the whole idea. And even the travel agency has updated its campaign to #StopBlueMonday after years of people making fun of the idea. Of course, if you do feel like this day holds some extra gloominess for you, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s also fine. But please don’t let an equation — especially this one — take over your life.
January is bleak at the best of times. The entire month seems to be a come down from December’s festivities, but apparently there’s one particular day that’s set to be the bleakest.
Aptly named ‘Blue Monday,’ 16 January is considered by some, as ‘the most depressing day of the year.’
And while this isn’t entirely scientific (the formula was created by a travel company over a decade ago), post-Christmas blues are very real, and many of us can suffer with low mood, and low motivation come New Year.
But worry not, here are some practical steps you can take to boost your happiness levels on Blue Monday – and hopefully for the foreseeable future.
1. GET MOVING, AND MAKE A FRIEND TAG ALONG TOO
‘Physical activity is proven to release endorphins, often known as the “feel good” hormones in the body… and so does laughter,’ Elaine Denton, David Lloyd’s fitness expert told Good Housekeeping.
‘So why not combine the two and workout with a friend? A walk in the outdoors, a group exercise or gym class, swimming or tennis…anything that get’s the heart pumping, your muscles working and your cheeks aching from smiling!’
MORE: IS SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER A MYTH?
2. GET SOME SERIOUS SHUT EYE
It’s important to get enough sleep, and psychologist Dr Jessamy Hibberd, co-author of This Book Will…Make You Happy stresses to us that that sleep should not be disturbed.
‘Remove any unnecessary noise (like ticking clocks) from your bedroom, make sure it’s as dark as possible, and keep it a phone, tablet and computer-free zone.’
And on the other hand, don’t hit that snooze button either. Your mood is at its lowest when you first wake up (and will naturally rise as you get out of bed), but you’ll end up feeling worse if you delay the inevitable.
3. GET BATCH COOKING
Maintaining a healthy diet is a great way to getting you feeling good in the bleak winter months.
‘It may be tempting to swap healthy meals for stodgy suppers, but summer bodies are made in winter, so keeping those healthy food habits going will pay dividends,’ Julia Westgarth, Programme Development Manager at Weight Watchers tells Good Housekeeping.
‘Batch-cook warming, veg-packed winter stews to stock your freezer with your own version of ready meals; switch lunchtime salads for steaming bowls of soup and cold cereal breakfasts for healthy, comforting porridge.’
MORE: WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE TO LIVE WITH SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
4. PUT SOMETHING FUN IN THE DIARY
‘Doing things that make you feel good is a really simple way to lift your mood,’ Dr Hibberd told us. ‘So book tickets to that musical, or new film you want to see, or go out for dinner with friends.’
MORE: THE TRUTH ABOUT OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER
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Just days after Friday 13 sent superstitious people into a spin, ‘Blue Monday’ was upon us with January 16 promising to be the most depressing day of the year for Britons.
But does ‘Blue Monday’ really have any scientific basis or is it just the perfect excuse for companies to get rid of leftover Christmas stock, while telling people that they must be unhappy?
Dr Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, came up with a formula in 2005 that diagnosed the third Monday in January as the most dismal day of the year.
His equation takes into account factors such as debt, time since failing new year’s resolutions and weather.
M x NA
W = weather
D = debt
d = monthly salary
T = time since Christmas
Q = time since failed quit attempt M = low motivational levels
NA = the need to take action.
Dr Arnall even went as far as to say that 2017’s Blue Monday “could be the bluest ever” (The Telegraph), hypothesising that Brexit and the election of Donald Trump could be to blame.
“The deaths of so many celebrities, many in their 50s and 60s, has also worried people by reminding them of their own mortality,” he added.
However, the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ also has its critics. Not least because Arnall’s calculations were published as part of a Sky Travel press release; although the company, as many people have pointed out, has a vested interest in people searching for ways to escape the January blues.
Dean Burnett, a doctor of Neuroscience, commented in The Guardian :“Making an extra effort to be supportive of people with depression on ‘Blue Monday’ is like being more considerate of diabetics because Jupiter is rising in Virgo.”
Burnett goes on to say that depression doesn’t work this way, labels the equation used to determine Blue Monday “gibberish” and says the date is no “more than cynical advertising bumph that people have lapped up to an alarming extent.”
Examples of companies using Blue Monday as an advertising opportunity were not hard to come by on Twitter, which was awash with brands offering ways for consumers to spend away their troubles on 2017’s darkest day.
Forget about #bluemonday! Enter our #competition for your chance to #win a 1 year VIP Monese account. Retweet to enter! pic.twitter.com/htTxSiz3Ao
— Monese (@MyMonese) January 16, 2017
However, even if the science behind the phenomenon has been largely questioned , isn’t the publicity surrounding the day largely harmless?
Mental health charities have spoken out against the idea, arguing that Blue Monday belittles the problems that those living with depression face all year round.
Isabella Goldie from the Mental Heath Foundation rationalises: The idea that depression can somehow be calculated by formula is seen by many to trivialise their lived experience.
The evidence behind “#BlueMonday“. Please share: pic.twitter.com/ogSLezU9XG
— Mental Health Fdn (@mentalhealth) January 16, 2017
On the other hand, Samaritans used the publicity surrounding the hashtag #BlueMonday to launch their campaign “Brew Monday”, which encouraged people to “take time for a cuppa and a chat”.
Let Us Be Lovely on #BrewMonday and take time to share a cuppa and a chat with someone close to us. Don’t let things stew – have a brew! ☕ pic.twitter.com/snYCrUjoHf
— Samaritans (@samaritans) January 16, 2017
Whether you had a Blue Monday or a Brew Monday, Dr Arnall also hypothesised that the happiest day of the year falls in mid-June. Only six months to go.
Contact Samaritans here
Got a case of the Monday blues? Well, you may not be alone; the most miserable day of the year — Blue Monday — is allegedly upon us.
But how did the third Monday in January get its title? And is there any real science behind it?
Here is everything you need to know:
1. Origins of the day
Cliff Arnall, a former lecturer at Cardiff University, was commissioned by a U.K.-based travel agency in 2005 to find the most depressing day of the year as a way to market winter vacations.
2. Why is the third Monday in January so difficult?
Arnall used a pseudo-mathematical formula to pinpoint the most depressing day of the year: he combined weather, debt, time since Christmas, motivation levels, the need to take action, and time since New Year’s resolutions were made.
In other words, Jan. 18 is the worst day of 2016 because Christmas cheer has worn off, you’ve likely broken your New Year’s resolutions already, it’s cold outside, and your post-holiday credit card statement has arrived.
3. Is there any real science behind this?
“No studies or evidence have proved any one calendar date is more gloomy than any others, and the formula linked with the calculation of such a date has no real scientific basis,” Snopes.com wrote last year to debunk the Blue Monday findings.
Dean Burnett, a lecturer at Cardiff University, has also refuted the idea for years, calling Blue Monday a “silly claim (that) comes from a ludicrous equation.”
“True clinical depression (as opposed to a post-Christmas slump) is a far more complex condition that is affected by many factors, chronic and temporary, internal and external. What is extremely unlikely (i.e. impossible) is that there is a reliable set of external factors that cause depression in an entire population at the same time every year,” he wrote in The Guardian.
Arnall himself urged Britons to “refute the whole notion” of Blue Monday.
The designation, he told The Telegraph in 2010, is “not particularly helpful” because it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
4. But can the weather affect my mood?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real condition in which weather affects people’s moods.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) says some people “are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern,” while about 10 per cent of people will experience mood disorders. Shorter days in fall, for example, can trigger a form of depression that lasts until spring.
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5. How can you help those seasonal blues?
The Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba says symptoms of SAD can be treated with light therapy: sitting near “full-spectrum fluorescent lights with a brightness of 10,000 Lux” for 20-30 minutes every morning.
Therapy lamps are being installed at libraries in Winnipeg, CBC reported on Monday. Stanley A. Milner Library in Edmonton also installed three solar lamps meant to fight SAD in 2014, Metro reported.