“Blue Monday”, the third Monday of January, is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. What can you do to boost your mood in freezing cold weather with bad news coming from all directions?
Blue Monday is supposed to be the most depressing day of the entire year. Falling on the third Monday of January, many people are still broke from Christmas, failing at their New Year resolutions and in the full swing of being back at the 9-to-5, it’s understandable that people get down in the dumps.
But is there more to it than that? Does SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, play a genuine part in the ‘Blue Monday’ syndrome?
The first thing to understand is that the whole concept of Blue Monday is a bit of a scam, invented by a holiday firm to encourage people to book their summer holidays. They asked psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall to devise a formula that took into account various factors, including weather conditions, debt levels, time since Christmas, and the motivation to take action. But whether the idea of ‘Blue Monday’ is scientifically sound or not, it does seem to tap into some issues in modern life, particularly since the pandemic, cost of living crisis and international conflict seem to have plunged us into a relentless cycle of misery.
There is also the possibility that Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as seasonal depression, can have an impact on mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels. According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA), it is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus (a region of the brain) as a result of shorter daylight hours and lack of sunlight during the winter.
Key symptoms of SAD can include:
- Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, guilt, anxiety and apathy.
- Overeating and weight gain.
- Sleep problems (having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much).
- Having difficulties carrying out daily tasks.
- Change of appetite, notably craving sugary and starchy foods.
- Tension and stress.
- Unexplained aches and pains.
- Feeling low and unsociable.
So perhaps there is some truth in the concept of Blue Monday, or perhaps it just highlights a growing general mental health crisis in Britain, with around 1 in 5 Brits showing symptoms of depression, and prescriptions for anti-depressants reached an all time high.
Here are some tips for dealing with Blue Monday, SAD and depressive symptoms generally:
Getting out into nature is the most natural anti-depressant there is. Studies have shown that time just 20 to 30 minutes spent in nature will significantly lower levels of stress hormones which can eventually lead to depression if untreated. While it can seem unappealing to go outside when the weather is so cold and miserable, wrapping up warm and heading out to your nearest park is a sure way to boost your mood and remove your mind from the busy and hectic stresses of everyday life.
The risk of depression falls 17 percent with every 30 minutes of physical activity you do. Just three hours of any form of exercise a week can significantly boost your mood. A study published by Harvard University looked at the lifestyle habits of 8000 men and women. They found that those who were physically active had less risk of anxiety and depression than those who barely moved.
Get some light
In the dead of winter, many of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is characterised as a low mood in the winter months due to the lack of sunlight. While this can be hard to live with, there are things you can do to help. Small changes such as opening the curtains (if it’s light outside) in the morning while you eat breakfast, and getting outside during the day at work so you can ensure you are getting the most sunlight possible. If your SAD is more serious, and these techniques aren’t helping, it might be worth considering investing in a light box, which mimics the light given off by the sun. Look for a strength of 10,000 lux.
Make time for friends
While it is tempting to hibernate and hide from the cold weather at home, meeting with friends is a sure way to boost your mood. Depression can make us feel like cutting people out because we think we don’t want the company – however, even if you don’t feel like socialising, meeting a friend for a coffee or a chat will help you feel less isolated and remind you of the people around to support you.
Or you could try this to get you dancing around the kitchen…!