Today is called Blue Monday, which has become commonly known as the most depressing day of the year. But what is Blue Monday? Where did it originate, and is there any evidence to support its depression inducing claims?
The winter months are always a challenging period for mental health sufferers, with conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) becoming increasingly prominent as various aspects of the winter period take their toll on mental health. For example, cold weather, shorter days, and financial worries caused by the festive period, among other reasons, can significantly exacerbate poor mental health.
However, despite seasonal depression being a quantifiable, proven condition, Blue Monday, the day of the year labelled as the most depressing in the calendar, seems to have no scientific basis. So here, we look at the evidence and answer the question, what is Blue Monday?
What is blue Monday?
Blue Monday, for reasons unknown, is the third Monday of every New Year, meaning it falls on January 16 in 2023. This may be the first time you’ve heard about Blue Monday, or perhaps you’ve seen it circulating recently across social media. Nevertheless, the origins of the alleged most depressing day of the year date back to the mid-2000s, and its origins to this day remain controversial and mysterious.
The concept of Blue Monday is believed to have first been published in 2005 in a press release from Sky Travel, who made claims that a novel calculation they made determined it as the most depressing day of the year. Due to this, the first-ever Blue Monday was born on January 24 2005.
The calculation employed a range of factors, such as weather, debt, time since Christmas, monthly salary, time since the failure of New Year’s resolutions, low motivation levels, and the feeling of a need to take action. However, experts regarded the formula as nonsensical, as no units were defined in the calculation, meaning even mathematically, it did not make sense.
Moreover, Cliff Arnell, a former tutor at Cardiff University to who the original press release is attributed, openly campaigns against Blue Monday, stating it was meant to inspire people to better their lives, not incite dread.
Safeguarding mental health
Although we’ve established no scientific evidence to support Blue Monday, mental health problems persist all year round, particularly at this time of year. In an effort to enhance mental wellbeing in these challenging times, Dr Claire Vowell, a counselling psychologist from Koa Health, outlines how new habits can alleviate conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Dr Vowell said: “While the actual date of Blue Monday is not scientifically proven, we know that many people struggle in January. After the festive season, the long, dark days of January can leave us feeling low. This is particularly true when we continue to suffer the impact of the pandemic. Millions of people also have to self-isolate. In this climate, some fall into the trap of doomscrolling, something that so characterised 2020, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary and named a word of the year.
“So how can we avoid this? Well, although the time for New Year’s resolutions may have passed, January is a good time to set realistic goals, an opportunity to switch out old habits for new ones. Choosing to increase your activity and social contact might help you find something that gives you a sense of purpose, for example. Meanwhile, setting boundaries for how and when you’ll use your phone or turning off alerts could help you avoid doomscrolling your way through the month (and year).
“Building new wellbeing habits can seem like a lot when you’re first getting started, but making your goals sustainable can help. After all, as we prepare for another year still facing the effects of the pandemic, managing our mental health is more important than ever”.