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Why is Blue Monday known as the ‘most depressing day of the year’?

January 18, 2021  |  by Charlotte Linham

Well, someone once did a calculation that suggested today is the one day of the year when a range of factors collide to make us feel pretty awful. Bad weather, post-Christmas debt, disappointment from failing at New Years’ resolutions, dreading going back to work, and generally feeling ‘blue’ and unmotivated – amongst other things.  

Except there’s one thing – no scientific evidence has ever backed-up this theory. The guy whose name is associated with inventing the formula (Cliff Arnall) strongly campaigns against the idea, amongst numerous other scientists. As far as the actual formula goes, it doesn’t even make mathematical sense. So why do we still buy into it?  

We as humans love an explanation for things. It helps us attribute meaning to our experiences. The aforementioned factors can all affect our wellbeing negatively. However, they are not the only things that affect us. Perhaps the most important factor is the very thing we try to make sense of – our experiences. These are completely individual to us, therefore it is pointless to try and identify the most ‘depressing’ day of the year, as it would be different for every single one of us. There is also a significant difference between feeling temporarily ‘blue’ and being depressed. We can all relate to feeling down from time-to-time but being depressed can be quite disabling in our everyday lives.  

Clearly, there is evidence that these factors do affect our wellbeing and it is well known there can be seasonal fluctuations in our mental health. So, how can we help ourselves?  

We can start by getting outside in the daylight hours.  

This helps to combat the seasonal fluctuations in our mental health. If we combine that with a walk or some other exercise, it will further the benefits by releasing endorphins. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous for it to make a difference. Even just a few times a week will help our wellbeing. We can also start noticing things around us. Writing down all the positives in your day can be a great step to change your perspective on your experiences. Setting small goals also allows us to accomplish things each day and rewarding ourselves can increase the benefits even further. 

We could also try learning something new. 

This can be something small, or you might want to set a bigger goal. Lockdown presents us with a good opportunity to begin learning all over again – even just reading a few pages of a book can teach us something. We can also give back – this might be as simple as checking in on a friend or asking a neighbour if they need something from the shop. The act of being kind helps boost our own mental health, as well as the other persons.  

Finally, we can connect with those around us and start talking about mental health.  

This is as simple as asking someone how they are and genuinely caring about the response. It’s being open and honest about how you’re feeling. If you are really struggling around this time, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. It is also about connecting with ourselves – allowing ourselves to feel what we feel, giving ourselves the space to process this and then doing something we love to help us improve our wellbeing.  

January is commonly associated with new beginnings and change, and the goal of Blue Monday in Arnall’s view was, in the first instance, to spur us on to make that change. Poor mental health is perhaps the most significant public health challenge of our time. Blue Monday as an entity signifies how important evidence-based practice is and how significant, early intervention and prevention can be. Perhaps the change we make should be considering right now is putting the focus on our mental health all year round; contribute to stopping the stigma and starting that conversation within our communities. 

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