Is Blue Monday Really the Most Depressing Day of the Year?

Is Blue Monday Really the Most Depressing Day of the Year?

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday is a term that refers to the ‘most depressing day of the year’. But why does it fall when it does? Is there any real science behind it? And if it really is the most depressing day, how can we lessen its effects?

When is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday is the third Monday of the year. In 2019, this falls on Monday 21st January.

The origins of Blue Monday

Blue Monday was conceived by a PR company on behalf of a Sky Travel. They wanted a formula that could identify the day when Brits feel the most depressed. So they approached Cliff Arnall, a tutor from the University of Cardiff, to do the maths. He devised an equation based on various factors, such of length of time since Christmas, amount of debt, the weather and broken New Year’s resolutions.

The science behind Blue Monday

Arnall’s calculation used perfectly viable factors. The weather, money worries, returning to work and general post-Christmas blues can have a very real impact on our mental health. That said, reducing the nation’s mood to a simple sum couldn’t be anything but an over-simplification of a complex issue.

As a result, Blue Monday has drawn criticism from mental health groups, like the charity Mind. Arnall has even distanced himself from it, fearing it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I’m pleased about the impact if it means people are talking about depression and how they feel”, he commented. “But I’m also encouraging people to refute the whole notion of there being a most depressing day”.

Winter blues

Despite the un-scientific nature of Blue Monday, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real condition that can have a serious impact on our mental health. Low mood, irritability, lethargy, weight gain, sleeping more and a sense of worthlessness characterise this potentially serious condition.

The main cause of SAD is thought to be reduced exposure to sunlight. For tips on reducing the impact of SAD, see our blog on Beating winter blues. But if you’re struggling to cope, see your GP.

Practical worries

Arnall’s link between debt and mental health is a valid one. Feeling you’re not in control of your money can lead to stress and depression, just as mental health issues can impact our financial behaviour. This can lead to a cycle in which we may feel ‘trapped’.

Help with debt is available, it’s just a case of making sure you get it from a trustworthy source, such as Step Change.

The post-Christmas return to work can mean a change of sleep pattern, as well as a mountain of tasks to catch up on. Paying attention to your sleep habits is important at this time of year, so start tracking your sleep patterns via our app today. Being more rested will help you sail through those tasks too.

Broken resolutions

It’s true – when our resolutions slip off track, it’s easy to fall into a negative thinking habit. If you catch yourself thinking things like “I never manage to stick to anything”, or “I always fail”, then you might have stumbled into a common ‘thinking trap’. Thinking traps can keep us in a cycle of self-criticism and worry.

If you have a goal you’re struggling to achieve, it might help to read our blog on How to stick to your New Year’s resolution. But the main thing is to try and challenge those unhelpful, self-critical thoughts. You haven’t blown it, you might just need to fine-tune your resolution a little.

Helping you beat the blues

So Blue Monday may not be real, but this time of the year there does come with certain challenges. And as there’s never a bad time to start practising a little self-care, why not try our self-help app. It’s clinically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression.

If the dark days are getting you down, you might benefit from our Building Happiness and Wellbeing module. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by practical commitments, try our modules on Managing Stress and Overload or Managing Fear and Anxiety. Or if you’re feeling down on yourself due to broken New Year’s resolutions, our Tackling Unhelpful Thinking module could help you break out of those negative thinking traps.

Sam Weston

I am a social media manager, content writer and audio enthusiast - I set a world record once upon a time!