Blue Monday is a concept postulated initially by Sky Travel as part of a publicity campaign and is said to be the ‘most depressing day of the year’. While the concept originally began as part of a publicity campaign, it has nevertheless been well received by many and the term has entered the public lexicon as a result and it did begin life as part of a paper from Cardiff University professor Cliff Arnall (Sky later offered a sum of money to use the idea).
So what is this magic depressing date? According to Arnall it’s the last Monday in January at which point we will be going into work, it will be wet and dark and we will have long forgot the seasonal cheer of Christmas and New Year. To put it in Arnall’s pseudoscientific terms, the equation is:
Where W=weather, D=debt, T=time since Christmas, Q=the time since we failed our new year’s resolution, M=low motivational levels and N=the desire to take action. Amusingly ‘D’ hasn’t been clearly defined.
The Truth About Blue Monday
The first thing you need to know about ‘Blue Monday’ is that it is essentially an arbitrary date. The equation described above is by no means scientific and even if there was merit to the system it would still be very subjective – the weather would depend on the area you live in, your debt would depend on personal factors, and your success with your resolutions is again entirely down to you and not something that can be predicted. In fact the only way that Blue Monday could have a bearing on any real depression is if it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – in other words if you focus on the idea of it being a black day too much then you might end up actually making it a bad day by viewing events negatively and not taking your usual chances.
The first piece of advice I want to share with you then regarding Blue Monday is not to focus on it – try to forget the concept even exists and that way you won’t end up sabotaging your own good mood as a result.
Perhaps a more scientific way to look at the most depressing day of the year would be to look at suicide rates, and actually it is true that Monday is the most popular day for suicide attempts (with Saturday having the fewest). This suggests that work really does have a big impact on our mood and that many of us just don’t want to go.
On the other hand though it seems that Arnall was probably wrong about the Month, and the months that have been shown to have the highest suicide rates are in fact March, April and May. All cold months, but interestingly not the coldest or wettest in the year. During these months there is a 5% increase in the chances of someone committing suicide.
Avoiding Seasonal Depression
Whatever the exact date though, the idea of ‘Blue Monday’ does draw attention to some interesting points and specifically the fact that many of the things that affect our happiness are external factors that we don’t have much control over and that are largely predictable. Things like the weather, like our jobs, and like our financial situation and these factors unite us all in a kind of ‘national’ misery.
But the good news is that if our stressors are so predictable, that should make them much easier to anticipate and combat. In other words, if you know that you tend to feel more depressed in winter then an obvious way to boost your happiness would be to organize holidays during that time and to take more of your holiday leave then as well. You could even consider moving somewhere warmer. Other things like using UV light in your home can help you to combat seasonal affective disorder and help you to trick your body into thinking it’s summer.
Likewise if you find yourself absolutely dreading Mondays then you know that you need to reconsider your choice of career. No one should be made to feel depressed by their jobs, and if you find you are then this is something you need to address – either by looking for alternative employment or by speaking with your employer.
What Blue Monday also shows us though is that many of us are unhappy at the same time. If you’re feeling low then because of the grim weather, the poor economy and the fact that you have to go into work tomorrow then chances are that your neighbour is too, and your sister, and your colleagues – so in other words now is the time to band together and if you can organize to have some friends round to sit in front of the TV under the blanket with a warm cup of cocoa then suddenly everything can feel a lot better.