What is Blue Monday?

11 Jan 2023
Navin Khosla medical writer
Navin Khosla
Medical Writer
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Blue Monday is a term used to describe the third Monday of January. It is believed to be the most depressing day of the year. The term was first popularised in 2005 by British psychologist Cliff Arnall, who argued that the combination of cold and dark winter days, debt from Christmas spending, and distance from New Year’s resolutions makes January particularly difficult for many people. This may lead to feelings of sadness, low mood or depression. Some people suffer from the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which can increase depression and anxiety. How can we understand and combat Blue Monday? Let’s take a look at what causes it and how we can manage it.

The science behind Blue Monday

Arnall formulated his theory using six factors which he believed could contribute to feelings of depression this time of year: weather, dread of credit card bills arriving, time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year’s resolutions, low motivational levels, and the feeling of a need to take action. While these factors can certainly contribute to feelings of sadness or loneliness, they do not necessarily indicate an underlying mental health issue. In other words, while everyone may feel down at times due to any combination of these factors, not everyone will experience severe or persistent feelings of depression that require professional help.

How to cope with feeling down

One of the best ways to cope with feeling down on Blue Monday (or any other day!) is to practice self-care. This could include activities such as:

Going for a walk outdoors

Winter can be a difficult time to stay cheerful and motivated. It gets dark earlier, the weather is often unpredictable, and it can seem like you’re stuck in an endless cycle of grey days. The weather may not be great and taking a walk along the beach may not be an option, but going for a walk outside in the fresh air is a great way to take your mind off things and give yourself an energy boost. Eating lunch or taking coffee breaks outdoors whenever possible can help reduce the winter blues, as even just 15-20 minutes spent outdoors can make a huge difference. Fresh air not only helps you feel good mentally but also physically, by providing much-needed oxygen and exercise which boosts heart health. So when you’re feeling down during the gloomy months of winter, going for a walk outside in nature’s beauty can offer some real relief.

Getting enough sleep

During the winter months, it’s easy to feel down due to seasonal changes and lack of natural sunlight. However, a great way to help cope with feeling down is by getting enough sleep each night. Getting a good amount of sleep helps your body regulate hormones such as serotonin and melatonin; an imbalance of these can contribute to feelings of depression or sadness. Aim for 7-8 hours each night, or even more if possible.

When we don’t get enough sleep we can start to feel stressed and overwhelmed with daily activities. Aim for consistency when it comes to your sleeping schedule, too: getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time every day helps our bodies stay accustomed to their schedule and encourages better quality sleep overall. With enough rest each night, you can help yourself cope with feeling down during the winter months.

Time away from technology

One way to help cope with these feelings is by setting aside some time each day specifically for yourself, without any distractions from technology or other commitments. Having this period alone can allow you to relax, reflect, and feel more connected to what is important in your life and in turn, help you to stay positive throughout the winter months.

Eating nutritious meals regularly

Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is an important part of looking after your mental and emotional health, especially during the winter months when we can often feel down. Regularly consuming vitamins and minerals found in fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, can provide the energy needed to stay positive in cold weather. It is also beneficial to consume polyunsaturated fats regularly like those found in oily fish, soya beans and nuts that contain essential fatty acids which help our brains to function better.

Avoid excessive consumption of processed foods or drinks high in sugar as these will only leave us feeling more sluggish or possibly depressed. Additionally, having three meals a day with healthy snacks between them provides structure to your daily routine which can also help us cope with feeling low. It may also help to reduce your alcohol consumption, especially if December involved a lot of drinking

Engaging in activities you enjoy

While it can be difficult to push through the January blues, engaging in activities that you enjoy can be a great way to handle those feelings. Whether it’s reading a book, exploring a new passion or hobby like cooking, or curling up with a warm drink – taking some time to enjoy what you love can make all the difference. Activities you look forward to invite positivity and contentment which will help to lift your spirits throughout the winter season.

Connecting with friends/family

Winter can be a tough season for many people, with less sunlight and colder weather making it difficult to break out of a funk. Luckily, we have our friends and family as a source of comfort during these times. Connecting with those who make us feel good about ourselves and our lives can be a powerful tool in helping us deal with feeling down in the winter months.

Studies have shown that having positive social interactions can help boost self-esteem while also making us feel more connected to the world around us. Taking the time to reach out to support individuals in your life, whether via phone call or digital message, is an important part of taking care of yourself during the coldest months of the year.

Challenge any negative thoughts

To help improve your mood during this period, challenge any negative thoughts and replace them with positives. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks on your plate, take each one at a time and focus solely on that task. Celebrating small wins can also help elevate your mood. Set realistic goals for yourself so you have something to strive for each day and allow yourself to feel accomplished because you achieved what you set out to do. With a positive mindset and a little bit of effort, it is possible to mentally prepare yourself to cope better emotionally with the season’s colder weather and darkness.

Seeking professional help

Talking about our feelings can help us gain clarity on what we’re going through and come up with solutions for managing our emotions better. It’s more important than ever to look after ourselves and our well-being, and it can be helpful to seek support if you’re finding yourself feeling down or struggling.

Samaritans and Mind are organisations that offer support 24/7 and helpful advice for day-to-day life problems. They have a vast range of volunteers available to talk to, who understand that everyone’s needs and struggles are different. If you feel like you need more specific help, seeking professional advice is always an option. The NHS website provides access to qualified professionals and reputable services as well as lots of advice on how to handle feeling down at this time of year.

Whether you believe in Blue Monday or think it’s a pseudoscience, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience! By understanding what causes it and engaging in activities that bring us joy, we can combat any negative thoughts or feelings associated with this day. So remember – it’s ok if you’re feeling down on Blue Monday – just know that there are always ways you can cope with these difficult times!

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