What is Blue Monday?
Blue Monday is the name given to the third Monday of January each year, claimed by a UK travel company to be the most depressing day of the year. They used an "equation" which took into account weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and ability to pay), time since Christmas and time since new year’s resolutions have probably been broken in order to calculate this date.
Scientists have dismissed this idea as baseless, arguing that there is no scientific evidence that one day in January can be more "depressing" than any other day of the year. After all mental health can affect any of us year round and while Seasonal Affective Disorder can have an impact on many people in these cold winter months, it has scientific data behind it unlike Blue Monday.
Behavioural scientists have long claimed that Blue Monday simply doesn’t exist. A 2018 survey of 2,100 working adults in the UK found that January was the worst month for worker productivity. But the reasons provided weren’t stress or mental health related, with participants admitting that they were less productive in January because they found themselves gossiping to colleagues or spending time in the kitchen making cups of tea after the Christmas break.
Ricardo Twumasi, a lecturer in organisational psychology at King’s College London states that: “there isn't any evidence to suggest that people are particularly more unhappy at any particular Monday in January, or in January in particular.”
As Mental Health Foundation claims "It is pointless to try and identify what the most depressing day of the year is because it would be different for each one of us. And it is also important to distinguish between temporarily feeling down, which we all relate to from time to time, and experiencing depression or a mental health problem that can be quite disabling for our day-to-day lives."
So, why is the idea of Blue Monday still going?
While the theory of Blue Monday was debunked just a year after it was created, it's continued to be remain a prominent term, seemingly gaining more and more attention since it was first introduced in 2005.
The obvious factor is just like the reason it was created, it is a strong attractive marketing buzzword for businesses. With Blue Monday always having a strong record of sales, even this year is meant to have a surge in holiday bookings. Many retailers also use it as a chance to generate more sales and interest in their products and the term is often trending on social media each year.
Many mental health organisations such as Mates in Mind find it important to break down the myth of Blue Monday when the day rolls around each year and to use it as a reminder to check in on our mental health.
It is also important to recognise that Blue Monday or the January Blues are very different to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real issue and is a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons, most commonly winter.
SAD is commonly caused by a lack of sunlight due to shorter days and colder temperatures.
Bodily changes in the winter month can affect our hormones and negatively impact our sleeping and eating habits, as well as our general mood.
Things that are known to be good for our mental health, such as exercising and spending time outside are harder to do when the days are short and nights are long as well as making activities such as socialising more difficult.
Those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder should seek help from their GP or a mental health professional as treatments are available to help manage symptoms.
Look after yourself
January can be a very difficult month for a variety of factors but it's important to recognise that our mental health is something we have year-round and that there are steps that we can take 365 days of the year to look after it.
Poor mental health still has taboo and stigma attached to it and making mental health-related topics into marketing buzzwords rather than prioritise on an evidence-backed preventative approach can be hugely damaging to people's perspectives.
This Blue Monday, take the time to look after your own wellbeing and maybe check in on someone else's too.