Blue Monday: Is It Really Miserable and How to Beat It?

Blue Monday: Is It Really Miserable and How to Beat It?

What is Blue Monday?  

Every year, the third Monday of January is named, “Blue Monday” and is considered the ‘most depressing’ day in the calendar.  Today is a day many people are expected to be feeling low, unmotivated, or fed up due to the time of year where we are still lingering the aftermath of the New Year and Christmas overindulging.


Where did the idea originate from?

In 2005, during a press release from a British travel company, Sky Travel, a psychologist (Dr. Cliff Arnall), created a type of formula that he believed proved the third Monday in January described the day as being the most dreadful of the year.  His formula looked at many factors.  For example, the weather at this time of year, the time after Christmas and new year’s festivities and generally lower motivation levels and people’s level of debt.  


In general, what factors can influence our mood? 

The short days have a big impact on our mood; waking up in the morning to a dark sky and coming home from school or work also in the dark can make us feel very tired.  The weather will often determine how much we get outside, and subsequently how happy we are because being outside releases happy hormones and gives an energy boost to the system. 

Specific to Blue Monday, the guilt that arises from the list of unachievable and incomplete new year’s resolutions can be a big weight on people’s shoulders; hence why it is important to keep your goals and targets SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). 


Application to A level Psychology

In A level Psychology, we study the symptoms of depression and low mood, which can be categorised into behavioural, cognitive and emotional factors such as:

  • Changes in sleep and eating behaviour
  • Absolutist, negative thinking
  • Low mood

The colder, darker environment of winter is associated with increased symptoms of depression, a condition recognised as ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’.  However, Dr Dean Burnett of Cardiff University is sceptical over whether ‘Blue Monday’ is a legitimate phenomenon, calling it “nonsense”.


Does this theory only apply to UK, or is it universal? 

The term has moved into everyday vocabulary, with the term being widely used across the Northern Hemisphere e.g. USA and Canada.  Due to the weather conditions, (one of the factors that makes up the Blue Monday formula as stated above), the term doesn't always apply to the Southern Hemisphere. 


How can I get through the ‘January Blues?’

  • Go out in the sun: (easier said than done in Britain) while daylight is so limited, but the sun is an unlimited source of vitamin D which is something our bodies crave. 
  • Try to adopt a regular sleep pattern: Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning can help stabilise your internal clock. 
  • Eat a balanced diet: In the winter, many of us crave sweets and complex carbohydrates, which can leave us feeling tired.  Try to incorporate whole grains and fresh produce into your diet daily! 
  • Exercise and socialise: Going for a walk, calling a friend, or having a cup of tea are all little activities which can help to lift your mood in the colder weather.

Mr Simon Haddock, Jasmine, Hannah, Khushi, Izzi, Daisy and Anais