You may have woken to hear the term Blue Monday and begin cancelling plans for today knowing it will be your saddest day of the year, and you are not alone.
The infamous Blue Monday is upon us, the 3rd Monday in January and those around may discuss why this is our most depressing day, even search out for reasons that it is - that in there lies the problem.
The self-fulfilling prophecy of Blue Monday is the non-superstitious relative of Friday the 13th. When you think Friday the 13th will be unlucky, you look for day things to happen. This is no different to Blue Monday whereby the Hype and Media of Blue Monday becomes our self-fulfilling prophecy, influencing people's perception and mood on that day. If you feel today will be a sad and depressing day, you will search for those things - think of it as a glass half empty kind of day.
So first, what is Blue Monday and why is it coined such a thing? Well the term Blue Monday stems from a UK travel company who requested Cliff Arnall to write a scientific formula for the January blues, and the third Monday was deemed from the calculations as the most depressing day. This formula was created looking factors such as the cold dark weather, credit card debt, post-holiday comedown, motivational and the new year resolution challenges. Some of these factors I’m sure we can all resonate with to feel that this may be a difficult time, but whether it is the same day for all of us is still yet to be noted.
There must be noted however - there is something to be said for the January Blues - and its place in our feelings in these dark and wintery days. The post-holiday comedown, financial strains, and the pressure of unkept resolutions can all somewhat dampen our spirits much like the current weather. For some it can be an even more challenging time, with around 1 in 20 people in the UK diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). For those struggling at this time of year, it is important to talk to others, whether it be friends and family or seek professional support from a healthcare professional.
Whether you’ve woken up today feeling a bit “Blue” this Monday or even this January, as much as this Monday may be Blue, so are the bright blue skies in the mornings we will see before long. January may feel like the longest month of the year, but with the sun staying longer in the sky each and everymorning, before we know it we will wake up to a sunrise and leave work in the light.
Whilst we wait for the sun to stay high in the sky, below are top tips to support you to get through this challenging time, whether it be the Blue Monday or the January BLUES:
Staying connected with family and friends is a great way to find support. By speak to others, they can share in challenges, as well as showing that you’re potentially not alone in your feelings. As human beings we are naturally social creatures, and staying in touch with others can help to feel part of a community, group and supportive setting. If you can’t meet up physically, send someone a message or give them a call. If we have learnt anything from the pandemic, communication is key for a stronger and more positive mental health.
Look to the future
January is a challenging time for most people; being dark, cold, and with Christmas credit card bills looming. It’s important at this time to not purely focus on the here and now but look forward to the future. In less than 2 months time, official spring time will be upon us and the cold dark nights will feel like a distant memory. Think and plan something you will look forward to and put motions in place to make it happen.
Uptake a new challenge
Achieving something will always make us feel a sense of pride, whether it be a small thing you’ve wanted to do for a while, or a big plan you want to work toward. Take something on that you can achieve during this time, and think of the positives this challenge will bring you - why do you want to do it, how will you make it happen, how will you prevent barriers from stopping you achieving your goal. Take something on and soon you’ll feel that rush of achievement before you know it.
Exercising is so important for both mind and body. Exercise releases levels of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. Exercise improves and helps us to regulate these neurotransmitters, which ultimately help us feel mentally healthy, as well as physically better too. From as simple as getting out for a brisk walk to taking up a new exercise class can make us feel so much better with every other part of our lives. Not only physically but mentally exercising as well is just as important - taking time for yourself, reading a book to learning a new craft can help us to feel endorphins that beat those blues.
Seek out the Sun
It won’t be long until we feel the warmth of the sunshine once more, but the sunshine is not just for the long summer days. Exposure to sunlight increases the brains release of the hormone serotonin, the feel good hormone. Not only that but Vitamin D has a huge benefit on our health and mood. Just 5-15 minutes of sunlight a few times week can help promote rejuvenation, supporting a healthy body and mind.
In summary, Blue Monday as a term may loom large, but it's just one day in a year of opportunities. Try to not let a manufactured label define your January experience. Despite its media spotlight, and it’s question in scientific validity and rigour, it does still touch on some real psychological experiences and challenges faced by many people in January. While feeling down after the holidays or facing financial pressures is understandable, equating it to a universal "most depressing day" can be challenging for those already feeling low. How we feel shouldn’t be dismissed by a simple day of the week, month, or year, but instead used as an opportunity to talk to those around you. A problem shared really is a problem halved, communication is key for addressing your wintery woes, and remember - the blue skies and long days will soon be upon us.
Dr Rachael Molitor