Is Blue Monday really the saddest day of the year?



Qualified Life Coach
@MariannaKilburn
Ask Marianna


19 December 2018

Why do they call it ‘Blue Monday’?

It’s quite understandable that, after the build-up and high of the festive period, you may find your mood sinking in January. The end the holiday season and the realisation that we’re still in the middle of a bleak winter can cause our moods to deflate which is why many seem to find the idea of ‘Blue Monday’ so understandable, however, is this day really the saddest of the year?

Not really according to most experts. In fact, the whole concept of ‘Blue Monday’ was first coined in a press release by Sky Travel as a marketing strategy to boost sales. They worked alongside Dr Cliff Arnall, a psychologist, to develop a ‘formula’ to assess which day of the year is the saddest, however, as even Dr Arnall has since admitted, this formula is far from infalliable and the whole idea of ‘Blue Monday’ could actually be quite dangerous.1  

Blue Monday encourages people to cultivate unhappy behaviours – if you’re repeatedly told that this Monday will be the saddest of the year, then you might start to subconsciously believe it. It could also help to perpetuate the unhealthy idea that a mood disorder like depression is more trivial than it actually is. Some sufferers for example, might get told that they’re just ‘feeling a bit low’ as it’s Blue Monday when in actual fact if you have depression, your symptoms don’t care what day of the year it is.

So, Blue Monday might not be as real as we first thought, but there definitely is something to the idea that January, in general, can be a difficult time of year for many and you may find your mood sinking at various points in the month. That’s why I’m going to take a look at a few of the factors that could upset your mood during this month and how you can go about addressing them. 

The post-festive blues

December can be an extremely exciting month in the build up to the holidays as you rush around to get all your shopping done, take a stroll around the markets, over-indulge on work night outs and spend some quality time with your family. After all of this build up January can knock you back down to reality like a slap to the face as you suddenly realise the holidays are over, you’re still in the middle of winter and there’s not much on the horizon to look forward too.

This can understandably leave you feeling a bit despondent and ready to leap at anything that gives you the chance to look forwards to something again in the far-off future – it’s one of the reasons travel companies like Sky Travel often launch different deals in January when you’re more susceptible to the idea. However, before you go and book a week away in New York in time for St Paddy’s Day or arrange a cruise around the Adriatic Sea for July, I would instead focus on smaller ways to take the tedium out of January. 

My advice: There’s nothing wrong with having a summer holiday to look forward too but, in the meantime, I would look for solutions closer to home. The New Year is a great opportunity to participate in new activities, whether it’s volunteering at a youth group or joining a climbing club. Think of something that you’ve always wanted to try, be it an exercise class, learning a new language or signing up for a social group, and go for it! Not only will this give you something regular to look forward too, it gets you out and about preventing you from stewing in your post-festive blues at home. 

Empty bank account

There’s no denying that January can be a really tough time for your bank balance – having such a long month come so soon after the festive period can mean that the majority of us are struggling to find loose change and are reluctant to spend any more than is strictly necessary. If the financial strain of the month is really starting to affect you, producing troublesome emotions such as stress and anxiety, then you’re definitely not alone. It can be really difficult feeling as though you’re holding your breath until your next pay check at the end of the month but, rather than mull over all the things you can’t do and how much you’ve spent, there are some more productive ways to tackle your money worries.

My advice: January might be a tight month for you which could mean you’ll probably be spending most of it in the confines of your own home. That’s why the first thing I would recommend you do would be to get outside – not only does being outdoors boost your mood, it means you’re not staring at the same four walls day in day out. A brisk twenty minute walk each day should do the trick and won’t cost you a penny. It might also be a good idea to get organised for the year ahead – if saving up for December was a struggle then open a savings account and from February onwards, start putting aside a small amount each month – it could be as little as £20 but over the course of 10 or so months it’ll soon add up! However, if you’re really worried about how to cope with financial pressures in the year ahead, then I would really recommend that you speak to Citizen’s Advice to get more professional guidance and information. 

Broken resolutions

January might get a bleak reputation but many of us start off the New Year feeling re-energised and determined to stick to the goals and resolutions we’ve planned, whether it’s going vegan for a month or starting a new regime at the gym. However, by mid-January the majority of us start to find our resolve tested and it’s estimated that 63% of us won’t even be able to make it into February.2  This can leave us feeling a bit deflated and disappointed and many of us give up completely on our goals, resigning ourselves to old habits and behaviours. 

My advice: One of the biggest problems with setting a New Years’ resolution is that often we have unrealistic goals and expectations. If you’re trying to go vegan for January, for example, then simply jettisoning all meat and dairy products from your diet after the 31st isn’t a recipe for long-term success and neither is attempting to lose 10 pounds at the gym in four weeks. Instead, either accept that setbacks are going to happen or do some work to prepare in advance. If you do find yourself stumbling then don’t give up, even if you do have a cheat day - you’re only human!  It’s good to be motivated but too much pressure can lead to problems so relax and keep going. 

The weather has you feeling SAD

Winter can be an extremely bleak time of year with dark skies and miserable weather and, for some us, it can cause major changes with our moods. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is estimated to affect around 1 in 15 of us every year and it can often trigger bouts of low mood, lethargy and may even impact our sleep patterns.  Although the exact cause has not been identified yet, it’s thought that SAD occurs as a response to the lack of sunlight available in winter and how this impacts hormones such as melatonin, the sleep hormone, and serotonin, an important neurotransmitter. If you’re suffering from SAD, the chances are January and even February are going to be very difficult months for you which is why it’s important that you take steps to tackle your symptoms.

My advice: If you suffer from SAD, I would highly recommend that you read some of my blogs over at A.Vogel Talks SAD where we discuss some of the symptoms and treatments and how you can go about preventing the condition naturally. However, as a lack of sunlight is believed to be a trigger, I would try and get as much exposure to the winter sun as possible. You might not feel like getting out and about but this really is the best thing you can do as, not only is it increasing your exposure to sunlight, it’s also allowing your skin to synthesis vitamin D. Since low levels of vitamin D are often associated with poor immunity, sleep and mood problems, getting plenty of it may help. You could also try our low mood remedy, St John’s Wort Hyperiforce which can help to ease slight symptoms of low mood and mild symptoms of anxiety. 

However, if you’re really struggling to cope with symptoms of low mood, it’s really important that you speak to somebody, whether it’s a friend, loved one or medical practitioner. SAD is gaining more and more recognition so your GP will be able to offer help and guidance when it comes to further treatment options!

What are your goals for January? 

1https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/904944/blue-monday-why-is-today-blue-monday-saddest-day-year-2018

2https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/dec/31/how-long-do-people-keep-their-new-year-resolutions

3https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad

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