What is Blue Monday?

What is Blue Monday?

16 January 2023 Health

It’s no secret: Mondays are (usually) disliked. They start the week by reminding us of everything we have to do and how much is left to do at the end of the week. But are all Mondays equally “tortuous”? Will 16 January be the worst in 2023?

The third Monday in January is called “Blue Monday” and is considered “the most depressing day of the year”. Not only is it Monday, but other factors are also added such as the relentless cold, the emotional effect of Christmas (family problems, absences…), the resolutions of the new year still unfulfilled (going to the gym, studying, eating healthy…) and the remoteness of the next holidays.

All this can generate symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, tiredness, insomnia, concentration difficulties, apathy, etc.

Why is today called Blue Monday?

The term “Blue Monday” was proposed in 2005 by Cliff Arnall, an English psychologist, and is based on the following mathematical formula:

blue monday formula
where W=weather, D=debt, d=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since the failure of new year’s resolutions, M=low motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action. 

While the parameters he uses seem to make sense, it is true that they are impossible to quantify and operationalise. Although, according to Arnall, his intention was always to motivate people and inspire them to self-realisation. Behind this equation was a well-known travel agency, which used the concept to promote this time as the best time to travel. It was a success.

Although the day is becoming increasingly visible, it is not without its critics. It is true that in January, mental health professionals notice an increase in the number of consultations, but to pin it down to a specific day would be ill-founded. Blue Monday has been associated with manipulation and marketing strategies, however, it is undeniable that in January, the depress genic factors mentioned above do exist. No one likes debt, or not talking to a close relative, or feeling guilty for not achieving one’s goals. However, these factors do not necessarily lead to depression. 

It is interesting to be aware of the danger of internalising the effects of institutionalising the “most depressing day of the year”, as the so-called self-fulfilling prophecy effect could occur, turning the belief into real sadness. Someone may be suggesting that it is going to be a bad day, and end up actually having a bad day.

Taking care of yourself in January

Beyond the controversy that Blue Monday may generate, January is, as we have mentioned, a difficult month in general, so it may be interesting to draw some lines to enhance psychological self-care.

  • Sadness is not “bad”, it is a normal basic emotion as necessary as joy or anger. It has a function. It indicates what is not going well or what we don’t like in our lives. Learning to listen to what it wants to tell us can bring about changes that make us live better lives.
  • Mood is not linear, there may be some fluctuations that have to do with our surroundings. There may be more distress, sadness or lack of motivation, but this does not mean that there is depression.
  • Communicate. Expressing what is distressing you can inject oxygen inside you and help you find other points of view. Be careful not to become the victim or delegate to others the care that we need to provide for ourselves.
  • Be specific. Ask yourself what it is specifically that ails you, don’t just give general answers, because it is in the specifics that we can look for solutions. It is different to say “I am overwhelmed by work” than “I am annoyed that my colleague next to me won’t stop talking”. Then look for alternatives to the problems you have identified.
  • Create realistic life goals and set a time frame for them. Find meaning in your life.
  • Increase your activity level. Depression thrives on personal neglect.
  • Reward yourself. It is important to encourage small self-gratifications after a hard day. There is no need to waste money, the best things in life are free. Don’t wait for the weekend to rest or enjoy yourself, find a gap in your daily life, however small it may be, it will be a promoter of mental health.
  • Take care of basic physical needs: sleep, eat well, take a shower, get some sun (vitamin D), etc. You will think better.
  • Be careful with social networks, don’t compare yourself with the supposedly idyllic lives of others. All that glitters is not gold. Practice JOMO (Joy of Missing Out).
  • Sadness is transitory. If you really feel the Blue Monday effect, think that tomorrow will be Tuesday.
  • If it’s not a Blue Monday, but you’ve already had several “Blue Months” or even a “Blue Year”, don’t get used to it. Consult a professional.

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