Now, if you read this blog title and instantly sang, ‘da ba dee, da ba dah’ you would be forgiven, as a recent remix has brought this rather obscure 00’s track back into the public consciousness. I may have had the original song on CD – thanks Eiffel 65.
However, I won’t be writing about repetitive dance music this month, more’s the pity. Blue, is instead referring to the colour associated with January. The third Monday in January, to be more precise, has been coined ‘Blue Monday’ since 2004 (another absolute tune there) and gloomily heralded as the ‘saddest day of the year.’ The sharpest minds among you will now be observing, quite rightly, that it is no longer January at all. We are in fact barrelling headfirst into a delightfully early taste of Spring, even though the calendar resolutely states the month of February. Although, it is testament to the shroud that January can cast as to why the January blog never materialised – I was simply too blue to write it.
Upon delving into how ‘Blue Monday’ came about, I found that Dr Cliff Arnall (psychologist and motivational speaker) had developed a formula to prove why this particular day hung heavier on our hearts than all the others. The motive as to why he did this is crass at best, unethical at worst – it was to sell package holidays. A now defunct travel company approached Arnall to calculate which day of the year was the most depressing in order to target customers with advertising. The rationale being that booking a holiday would appear tempting and alleviate feelings of sadness. A crude strategy but not necessarily a bad one.
Arnall has since apologised for his hand in the creation of ‘Blue Monday’ stating that he ‘never wanted to make [the] day sound negative,’ and that he intended to ‘inspire people to make bold life decisions.’ I’m not certain that a cheap deal to Lanzarote can be described as a ‘bold life decision’ but I see where he was going.
The scientific community has widely rejected the notion that one day of the year can retain intrinsic sadness over all the rest. January is often synonymous with stretched finances after Christmas festivities, and feelings of ‘back to work’ syndrome after the winter break. Yet, markers of public health, such as mortality and sickness absence, show no increase around the third Monday in January when compared to any other day during Winter. So, while it is perfectly normal to harbour some feelings of misery throughout the season, it is certainly nothing to do with a specific Monday in January and should never be misrepresented as scientific fact.
I definitely feel the pinch of dread when January begins to loom over the chocolate wrappers from Boxing Day. The inevitable journey to and from work in the dark, the pitiful bank account after over indulgence and perhaps worst of all, the realisation that there is nothing to look forward to for months. We have no family birthdays or anniversaries until March and unless one of us has really thought child care through, Valentine’s Day is a bit of a non-event. I did once consider if I suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and whether a dose of Vitamin D every day, paired with a light-therapy alarm clock might help. It turns out that Vitamin D supplements really can be a game changer in terms of overall mood and energy levels, but the lamp was soon relegated to the attic. It doesn’t matter how gently you are encouraging me to wake up, or what beautiful bird song is playing discreetly in the background – I don’t care. Let me sleep, or face the consequences.
A member of my family does genuinely have SAD throughout winter and is usually chomping at the bit for a glimmer of sunlight by the end of February. Sometimes called, ‘winter depression,’ SAD affects up to 10% of the population with symptoms of depression ranging from mild to moderate. This condition can also be exacerbated by reduced activity and opportunity for leisure time. I know that light therapy can be very effective at helping those affected by SAD have a more positive start to their day – just not me.
I’ll leave you this month with just a few ideas on how to lift the spirits when feeling down and I look forward to writing again, perhaps from a slightly sunnier vista in March.
5 tips to Banish the Blues:
- Don’t linger in bed.
While this is extremely counter-intuitive when you are feeling low, nothing sabotages my day more than wallowing in a dark bedroom, awake but not quite ready to get up. Do whatever it takes to escape! Put your phone out of reach, ask a partner to draw the curtains, invite your toddler to start jumping on your head…Whatever it takes.
- Reduce social media
Yes, yes, I know. I mention it every time. But even a slight reduction will help lift your mood. Trust me, you do not need to see your friend’s Insta of their smashed avocado on toast. That’s a hill I’m prepared to die on.
- Make plans for the evening
The dark will be with us for a while so thinking of ways to make the most of it might be prudent. Cosy fireside chats, romantic meals out and about, taking in the city lights while strolling along the river… All good ideas for a romantic novel (and I appear to be channelling New York with this thought) but they might just work in real life too.
- A change is as good as a rest
It really can be! While there is comfort in routine and I am most definitely a creature of habit, shaking things up every now and then can jolt your body – and mind – out of a slump.
- Monday Motivation
Closely related to getting out of bed, anything you can do to keep yourself motivated will ultimately help you stay in a positive mood in spite of those rainy, dull days. I have an odd little habit of talking positively to myself as I go about pretty mundane activities. It might seem excessive to need a pep talk in order to jump in the shower but sometimes it’s just what I need.