The Myth Of Blue Monday: Fact Or Fiction?

The concept of Blue Monday was first publicised as part of a 2005 press release from the holiday company Sky Travel. They claimed to have calculated the date using an equation which took into account weather conditions, specific to the Northern Hemisphere. Certainly, the January weather can be grey and cold, which doesn’t raise the spirits at the best of times.

More generally, it is regarded as the date when you receive your credit card statement, which is usually filled with lots of Christmas spending. We tend to underestimate spending in December so the bill arriving a few weeks later can be a rude awakening.

The exact date of Blue Monday changes every year but it usually falls on the 3rd Monday of January – when the high of Christmas is long gone and the motivation of those New Year Resolutions is perhaps waning. Added to that, large bills and miserable weather can make life seem challenging.

Dr Cliff Arnall, a teacher calling himself the ‘Happiness Guru’, created this particular equation taking all of these factors into consideration:

Perhaps there really is something to Blue Monday?

The problem with pre-determined days such as Blue Monday, is that it assumes that we aren’t the masters of our own destiny. It takes the power for our emotions and behaviours away from our own control and reduces them to fate. In effect, it dis-empowers us. Yes, you might receive a credit card bill on that Monday, for example, but you may have worked out exactly what you could afford to spend at Christmas and know exactly how you’ll pay it off. Yes, motivation can be low in January – but again, it’s really your choice as to how you keep yourself motivated and enthusiastic.

Perhaps one of the issues is the nature of New Year Resolutions themselves. The idea that you can only begin new habits on the first day of January is ridiculous really. This is simply about perception because, of course, you can start over any day of the year! So if you do feel that your good intentions have been derailed by the middle of January, then you can simply start again. In the same way, if you feel that you might have overspent, take some time to make a financial plan. It’s never too late to make improvements in the way that that we do things.

The weather is more difficult to control sadly and less ambiguous than the idea of Blue Monday is the genuine medical diagnosis of Seasonal Depressive Disorder – or S.A.D. This is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. The exact cause of S.A.D isn’t fully understood but it is often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter Autumn and Winter days.

The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain (the hypothalamus) from working properly. The effect of this is that more melatonin may be produced, which is linked to sleepiness, and also the production of serotonin may be reduced. Serotonin is linked to feelings of positivity, so lower levels in the body can cause low mood and depression. Sunlight also has an effect on our circadian rhythms – lower levels of light can be disruptive to the body’s internal clock, interfering with our natural waking and sleeping patterns.

If you feel particularly low during the winter months, then you may be suffering from this and will benefit from going to the your GP, who may be able to recommend various treatments, including light therapy, lifestyle modifications, talking therapies or anti-depressant medication.

Everybody is different – if you can take control of some aspects of your life, then Blue Monday is unlikely to derail you. If on the other hand, the winter stretches ahead of you like a black cloud and it feels overwhelming, then you need to talk to a professional. Remember that depression isn’t permanent and talking helps.