The winter months can be a real downer. Between the cold weather and lack of daylight, it’s no wonder many people struggle to get out of bed on Monday mornings. But one Monday morning, in particular, is named as the most depressing of the year – the third Monday in January – Blue Monday.
The History of Blue Monday
The term ‘Blue Monday’ was actually coined by the travel company, Sky Travel, in 2005. Sky Travel surveyed 2000 people about their feelings on Mondays and found that people felt particularly down on this day of the week. As part of their PR stunt to sell more holidays in January, the firm utilised a formula from psychologist, Dr Cliff Arnall. Dr Arnall’s formula found the third Monday in January to be the most depressing of the year, because:
- Monday is the first day of the work week and we’re often tired from the weekend
- We may have made New Year’s resolutions that we’re struggling to stick to
- The financial pressure of the Christmas season is still hanging over us
- The weather is miserable
- There is less daylight
- Payday is still a few weeks away
But, it’s worth remembering that Blue Monday originated as nothing more than a publicity stunt. Dr Arnall has since admitted that it was never his intention for the term to be used in such a negative way. In fact, in 2018, he made it a mission to turn ‘Blue Monday’ on its head. He partnered with Virgin Atlantic to launch a marketing campaign to encourage people to embrace January as the perfect month to start anew.
In his interview with the Independent, Dr Arnall said, “Whether embarking on a new career, meeting new friends, taking up a new hobby or booking a new adventure, January is actually a great time to make those big decisions for the year ahead.”
How to Beat the January Blues
Yet, there’s no doubt the ‘January Blues’ do exist. In fact, to help combat Blue Monday, the Samaritans charity launched the ‘Brew Monday’ campaign. Brew Monday encourages people to get together and find the time for a cuppa and a catch-up.
The theory is that talking to friends, family, or work colleagues over a cuppa is a great way to improve mental health. It also helps to reverse the negativity of the gloomiest (allegedly) day of the year.
As well as taking part in Brew Monday, here are some more ideas to help you move past the January Blues.
Plan a Holiday
For many people, the New Year is the time to make a fresh start and put the past behind them. But, January can also be a stressful time for those who are struggling to get back to a routine following the festive season. One way that you can help yourself feel better about January, is by planning a holiday or long weekend away.
The January weather can often be cold and miserable. Being stuck indoors all day can result in a low mood, which leads to a myriad of physical and mental health issues. So booking a holiday and marking it on your calendar, will give you something positive to look forward to.
Enhance Your Levels of Vitamin D
The best way to boost your vitamin D levels is by getting some sun. The body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, so getting outside, even for a short walk, will make you feel better. Vitamin D is also found in certain foods such as fish and egg yolks. If you don’t have time for an afternoon stroll, or you’re not a fan of fish or eggs, try taking a supplement that contains 600 IU per day.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause bone pain, muscle weakness and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to depression, so be sure that you’re getting enough, especially during the winter months.
Remember to Exercise
One of the best ways to overcome Blue Monday (and the January Blues in general) is exercise. A study from the University of Hertfordshire found that regular exercise can boost your mood and sleep quality. This, in turn, will help you feel more positive and confident. Exercise can also improve your memory and ability to concentrate over time. Finding the time to exercise, should be high on your priority list, especially if your mood is lower during January.
Tuck up With a Good Book
A good book can be a great way to escape the January blues. It can also be a great way to relax and learn something new. Joining a book club can also help you meet new people. If you’re feeling down or just want to feel better in general, then consider getting cosy with your favourite genre, as a perfect cure for your January blues!
Get Plenty of Sleep
In particular, the amount of sleep you get has a direct impact on your mental health. Sleep is important for memory and learning, which can help with making decisions and regulating emotions. The immune system also benefits from adequate rest—it needs deep sleep in order to function properly. Sleep also helps your heart stay healthy by reducing stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline).
The brain itself benefits from regular periods of rest as well; it’s been shown that sleep improves cognitive functioning by helping neurons form new connections in the brain, which leads to better memory formation.
Besides these physiological advantages of getting enough shuteye every night, there are also some excellent physical advantages (beauty sleep is a real thing):
- Your skin heals faster
- You’ll get fewer breakouts of spots and blackheads
- Your eyes are brighter
- Your hair is fuller
- Your skin products work better
- You generally look healthier and happier
If nothing else motivates you to get into bed earlier tonight, just think about how much better you’ll feel as soon as tomorrow morning rolls around.
Make a Plan
A huge step to beating the January blues is planning.
When you plan, you can get through the day. Planning helps you organise your thoughts, declutter your to-do list and stay on top of your priorities. A great daily plan, even if it’s just a simple list of things to accomplish, can improve your chances of a successful outcome with any project. Planning also helps with mindfulness – a good plan will help keep your mind clear and easily transition from one task to the next.
If there’s one thing that will keep your head above water during January, it’s a plan!
Reach Out for Help if You Need it
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the January blues, reach out for help. Talk to a friend or family member, or contact a doctor or mental health professional.
If you need more immediate help, call one of the numbers below:
Mind: 0300 123 3393
The Samaritans: 116 123
Campaign Against Living Miserably: 0800 58 58 58
Remember, Blue Monday Isn’t Real
While it’s true that everyone feels a little down during the winter months, the idea of Blue Monday is a marketing ploy — an attempt to get people to spend more money on things that make them feel better, like holidays.
So while it may be true that you’re feeling down this time of year, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: Blue Monday isn’t real. The key is to focus on what makes you happy and let go of anything that doesn’t.
And, if your job is getting you down, we can help.