Apparently the third Monday in January is THE most depressing day of the year! Wow! Who came up with that?
Here’s 6 reasons why I think the term Blue Monday is a waste of time.
- The analysis for that date seems basic
So there has to have been volumes of vigorous research about the factors contributing to this, right?
This popularised date was first promoted in 2005, as part of a campaign for a travel company. The ‘in-depth analysis’ done to calculate the date used nothing more than a pseudo-scientific formula which included factors such as weather conditions, debt levels, the amount of time since Christmas, and time since ‘failing’ our new-year resolutions.
No rocket science there…but the trend has caught some momentum and attached itself to a random Monday in January. Before believing this days utter doom and gloom narrative, do spend some time thinking about whether the data used and the factors regarding that data to calculate the day, are actually applicable to you.
2. Low mood predictors are unique
I agree that a lot of people feel low at this time of year – as a therapist, I often see an up-take in new referrals at the beginning of the year.
Low mood following the Christmas season is common and can be related to the increased stress and pressure that often comes with the holiday season. The pressure to buy gifts, plan parties, and travel to see family and friends can be overwhelming and can leave many people feeling exhausted and stressed out. However, this can happen at any point, following weddings, births, deaths, birthdays…any family get-together. Arguably it can be lonelier at these other points as those functions are experienced in isolation from society without the swarm of social media content that encapsulate Christmas stress. So is Blue Monday only targeted towards people who mark Christmas and not for others?
People generally struggle with feelings of sadness, depression, and anxiety during the winter months. BUT, not only those months…I see other points in the year when referrals also tend to increase due to stress or low mood, like after Valentine’s day from couples because they are struggling to make their relationship work, or after the summer holidays from stressed out parents and young people. Feeling blue can happen any time of the year because life is complicated and everybody has their own stresses. The point at which that stress is the worst for each and every one of us, is unpredictable because we cannot predict future events and future stress or life circumstances. A single day that is only applicable to a certain proportion of the population is not necessarily the most helpful predictor of low mood.
3. Stressors are changing over time
We all know about the financial crisis about how it’s impacting each and every one of us. The debt analysis done in 2005 as a part of the blue Monday calculation, cannot apply now to the current climate. Perhaps another, more rigorous study needs to be done post 2020, as living circumstances have changed enormously since Covid and lock-down. Working from home simply was not a viable option for most people in 2005, whereas now split working is the norm. Since 2020, then there has been a huge emphasis on reflecting on life choices and life styles. People have shifted in connecting to their goals and aspirations. So, the idea that Blue Monday is partly linked to failed resolutions doesn’t sit too well. Changes in life can happen at any time and we don’t need a New Year Resolution to tell us when we can change and how long we have until we start making those changes. Stress is unique to each of us. It is something we often keep hidden and something which can only be measured for each of us if we spoke honestly to someone about it. Dealing with stress is something we can all get better at, and CBT can be a very good way at understanding stress. Dr Kaur often uses EMDR as a way to work through blocks maintaining stress. There are many ways to deal with stress. The key is finding what works for you.
4. We need to get better at self care
Poor mood can absolutely be related to the short days and the long nights. The decrease in exposure to sunlight can disrupt our body’s natural circadian rhythms and can lead to feelings of fatigue, low energy, and depression. Additionally, the lack of sunlight can also cause a decrease in the production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood. But we are on the up…from the winter solstice on 21stDecember 2022 our says have been longer and lighter. Trying to make the most of this is important though…so plan in that lunch time walk or spend an extra 10 minutes walking before picking the kids up from school. Putting it in the diary will increase the chances of it actually happening. This is hard all of the time especially for people with lots of added responsibility. Self care through walks and sitting in the sun isn’t just related to the amount o sunlight hours. It can be related to how much a person thinks they deserve to take time ou for themselves and how able they are to practice that. This is a skill which most people struggle with and one that needs to be honed as work pressure and device addiction is increasing.
5. Loneliness is a personal experience unrelated to season alone
Another reason why people may feel low during this time of year is that they might be experiencing feelings of loneliness or isolation. Watching TV commercials or social media influencers draw out their perfect Christmas in matching PJs with beautiful backdrops can create envy. Loneliness can result from that envy through feeling different and separate to the world you are connecting to online. This can be execrated if you have no-one to talk to about it. This, again however, is not something specific to winter months only.
I see an increase in referrals from young people and women prior to summer because of anxiety related to their confidence, appearance and self-esteem. Summer months can be gruelling for most people and even lonelier than winter months because of the exposure element that comes with hot weather. Less clothes in summer means more exposure to others. This can be excruciatingly lonely for many people – having to cope with the fear of being judged and the internal shame of not having a good enough physicque. Loneliness happens at any time of the year and for a variety of reasons, not just because of Christmas stress, failed resolutions and or cold weather.
6. Socialisation is hard all year round for some people
During the colder months, people tend to spend more time indoors and may have fewer opportunities to socialise and connect with others. This can lead to isolation, which can exacerbate feelings of sadness and depression. But spring and summer can also bring withdrawal from social activities. Just because we can meet up with people and just because the weather might encourage socialisation, it doesn’t mean we feel up to it. It certainly doesn’t mean those meet ups will happen.
Difficult feelings, thoughts, memories and painful experiences exist around all of the events which can be written on a calendar. They can determine what we think, how we feel and what we do. They can also determine deeper held beliefs about ourselves which profoundly impact our mood at any point in the year.
For some people, the reason for feeling low at any time of the year might be related to deeper, longer-term emotional pain. For example, if someone has experienced loss or trauma, such as the death of a loved one or a traumatic event, any season or any reminder can be a painful connection to that loss. Additionally, people who have experienced abuse or neglect, their feelings of hurt and pain can be triggered at any point – points which look non-triggering and normal to others. Someone who was abused at a summer social event may dread similar settings and avoid them at all costs. Equally a person who witnessed a car accident on spring time weekend, during a pub lunch with friends, may struggle with going back to pub lunches despite it being the most beautiful of days. Adults who were bullied as children may not be able to think about stepping foot in their home town at any point of the year.
So, still think that Blue Monday is a term worth holding on to or are you with me and seeing it as over simplistic and quote unhelpful?
The bigger question is how to make the changes needed to tackle negative feelings.
- One way to combat the effects of the blues, at any time of year, is to try to get outside and get some sunlight. Even a short walk during the day can help boost your mood and energy levels.
- Another way to combat the blues is to engage in regular exercise, which can help boost the production of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
- Additionally, it’s important to take care of your mental and emotional well-being during this time of year. This can include practicing self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and setting aside time for activities you enjoy.
- It’s also important to reach out to friends and family for support.
- It might be time to consider talking to someone outside of your existing network of people and getting some therapy. If you are interested in this, complete a contact form and Dr Kaur will be in touch.
- For those who have experienced trauma, it’s important to be mindful of triggers and to have a plan in place to cope with them. This might include taking time for self-care, connecting with a support system, or seeking out professional help to work through difficult emotions.
It’s important to remember that feeling low at this time of year is not a sign of weakness or a personal failing. It is certainly not an eventuality because of the power of one day over the rest. These feelings are a normal response to the unique challenges in our lives, and there are many things that you can do to help alleviate them. Ultimately, the aim is to be guided by our understanding of our own internal world and not by manufactured days.
Contact Surrey Psychology
If you think it would be useful to talk to someone about how you are feeling, our talking therapies in Surrey Psychology online spaces are expertly delivered to help you find a way forward. Get in touch with Clinical Psychologist Dr Gurpreet Kaur today by filling out our online enquiry form.