Monday 20th January is known as Blue Monday.
Officially the most depressing day of the year.
There have been suggestions we should take the day off work, hide under a duvet, watch multiple feel-good movies and consume large amounts of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
The cold weather, mounting debts from the holiday season, coupled with the realization that you might have already discarded the new years’ resolutions, can contribute to a low mood.
Dr Cliff Arnall, the Psychologist who first gave ‘Blue Monday’ its name, claimed it was never his intention to make the day sound negative, but rather ‘to inspire people to take action and make bold life decisions.’
Since then, the date has been saddled with negative connotations, epitomizing all that is seen as miserable about the first month of the year in general.
But is it really the most depressing day of the year?
Depressive feelings are caused by a combination of so many different factors that it would be impossible to pick one day in which the whole country chooses to feel blue. Low moods in January might be attributable to festivities ending, and the emptiness felt after the holiday period.
The truth is we tend to go from one thing to the next repeatedly throughout the holiday season.We have an insatiable need for consumption, an incredible fear of missing out; and having a low mood can transpire from the emptiness of not having the next thing available.
It’s the same feeling we get when we come back from a great vacation we’ve been planning for months, then arrive in the airport lounge in our matching suitcase combination (bought especially for the occasion) and stare blankly at the life awaiting us.
“What next?” is the question we encounter in this moment.
Just before the Christmas holiday season, we are subjected to adverts showing glitzy gifts repeatedly interrupting our favourite TV shows. Even before the Christmas presents have been put away (or returned- whichever the case might be), the New Years’ Eve hype commences. Champagne, fireworks, endless socials and parties evidenced through social media posts.
On the first day of the year, we’re shown a selection of carefully chosen travel adverts with half-price holidays. Television scenes showing families lounging happily by the pool (does that even happen in real life?) with discounted flights and all-inclusive offers.
Places we must travel to and Mediterranean cruises we can’t afford to miss. Our FOMO (Fear of missing out) is at an all-time high at this stage.
Except when the 20th of January comes along.
This falls around the period when we receive our dreaded credit card bills for all that has been consumed in the past month — In addition to the endless Gym membership and Weight Watchers adverts, making us want to run for the hills, imagining the weight that has piled up over the holiday season.
Is it any wonder that some of us might feel slightly on edge by the middle of January.
It’s the anti-climax combined with the feeling of emptiness that accompanies the beginning of the year, and yes the dour weather (in the UK at least) doesn’t help to lift your mood. Nevertheless, we need to banish the dreaded ‘Blue Monday’ myth, by finding ways to lift our spirits during this time.
If you’re feeling somewhat out of sorts during this time of the year, what can you do about it?
Don’t feel disheartened if you’ve already quit your new year’s resolutions.
It’s not too late, pick something now that feels achievable, Whether it’s re-starting an exercise schedule, writing that book you always wanted to write or re-taking a creative project.
Start small but take consistent action in the same direction. We often feel disheartened when we’ve declared we’ll lose half our body weight by the last weekend of January. Then 2 weeks in, we reach for the family size salted caramel popcorn lying ever so lonely in the kitchen cupboard.
It’s fine, start again.
Small is great. No need for big declarations of purpose and missions.
I was speaking to my hairdresser who was complaining that she smokes 10 cigarettes daily and has never been able to quit. So I asked her to smoke 5 cigarettes instead. It’s a small change and achievable, she couldn’t believe how doable this was.
Think of something you would like to create by the beginning of summer and take one hour daily to dedicate to it. Simple. Everyone has one hour a day, use it wisely.
Take yourself out of your mundane routine regularly.
If you have time out during the week (or weekend), take a bus/train ride to another area to wander around and discover a more adventurous side to you whilst exploring the city.
You don’t need to go to Machu Pichu or scale the heights of the Himalayas to become explorative. Do it in your hometown, travel out of your area, discover cities that are nearby that you’ve never ventured into.
Take a walking tour and allow your curiosity to guide you, this is such a great way to meet new people, challenge yourself to get lost in the area for a while and find your way back. Just like we do in life.
I do this in every city I visit, although I fail to tell family or they would be climbing the walls with worry each time I venture out. It’s fun and allows you to converse with the locals and find different ways of reaching your destination. It’s also a great way to push your comfort zone and take you out of the mundane.
Discover a new pursuit.
The wonders of the internet have the potential to introduce you to workshops and courses you would never have discovered before. Go on Meet up and regularly book yourself onto a class regularly.
I recently joined a stand-up comedy class during one weekend which I knew would be gloomy and pouring with rain.
Although it was a terrifying prospect, it was something new and exciting. I ended up sitting in a comedy store called ‘The Bill Murray’ in a class filled with aspiring comedians whilst an 85-year-old American stand up expert gave us pointers on how to write stand up.
I learnt so much in that session about punchlines, surprising an audience and pushing yourself when you write to open up your imagination.
More importantly, a week into the new year, I had already learnt a new skill rather than complaining about the dire weather.
Give back to others.
Volunteering at a facility is a fantastic way of not allowing the end of the holiday season to send you into a downward spiral. The great thing about this is that you suspend your own needs for a couple of hours and focus on giving to others.
Not only will this inspire and propel you forward, but you’ll realize within a few moments, that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your needs. There are other people in the world in horrific circumstances, and although knowing this doesn’t make it better, being around it does.
I recently spent a few days working with homeless women in London during the holiday period and these were the most enjoyable moments of the season. The ethnic diversity of the women that I worked with was so wide, rich and interesting, that whilst in the midst of having a conversation with one of them, I had an idea for a book I could write. Totally unexpectedly it came to me.
During this time, I learnt the power of sisterhood and survival, and more importantly, when I got home that night I felt incredibly grateful for every tiny thing that I had in my life.
Spend less time on social media.
Starting your day when you’re at your most creative, being hit in the face with multiple social media posts can increase your comparison anxiety, and it eats away at any productivity. Schedule times when you take yourself off this.
Social media has allowed us to connect with people from around the universe. However, it has also allowed us to peek into their lives even more intimately and find more people we can now compare ourselves with.
We are inundated and swimming in content, it’s overwhelming to scroll down social media being hit by one blog, sponsored advert, Facebook Lives and people’s endless selfies showing their oh so wonderful lives. By the time you hit 11 am you feel exhausted, burnt out and creativity has now been zapped.
I mistakenly switched on twitter a few days ago, and 90 minutes later realized I had spent all that time scrolling from one news story to the next. Its seductive quality can’t be underestimated.
We are inundated with content and information but starving for wisdom, so subscribe to an inspiring podcast instead, and spend the first hour in the morning listening to a great speaker. Someone with an interesting story who can inspire you. London Real is a great one to try.
Endeavour to say ‘No’ more often.
Saying No to what you don’t want is the best way to create what you want.
We’re often so stuck on people-pleasing behaviours, that the word ‘No’ never tends to form part of our vocabulary. Pause before throwing yourself into saying yes. I’m not advocating that you become anti-social, but saying No more often is probably one of the best things I’ve done.
Not only did I gain oodles of time as a result, but it meant less time-wasting.
It’s somewhat like doing Marie Kondo’s decluttering programme. We often forget that decluttering isn’t just something we do when we need spring cleaning our wardrobes of all those clothes that no longer fit you, or clearing boxes from the garage when we’re about to move home.
Decluttering your life is incredibly freeing. Saying No to what you don’t want means that you can make space for what you do want.
This to me is the cornerstone of happiness, wellbeing and inner peace. Your life becomes simple and less cluttered.
Don’t take your thinking so seriously.
Never make decisions on temporary thinking.
If you’re feeling out of sorts, it’s easy to make big decisions as we often don’t like to stay in uncertainty, but never make a decision when you have anxiety or a low mood.
Wait until the mood passes (I know it’s easier said than done).
Thoughts are like clouds covering the blue sky. When you feel overwhelmed, anxious or low, the clouds are thick and engulf any clarity you might want to find. Know that it will pass, give it time, occupy yourself, but don’t worry. A low state of mind simply means that you’re thinking low-level thoughts such as ‘I’m not good enough’ ‘Everyone has it sorted except me’ etc..
It’s not comfortable, just know that you’re in the midst of a ‘thought storm’ accept it and don’t make big decisions from this state of mind, because once your mind clears, that decision will no longer make sense.
Going back to Blue Monday, this day has become the perfect scapegoat.
It serves to justify our low mood, lack of energy and motivation. It has become a way to validate and legitimize our blues and connect us to a shared experience that adds further credence.
But ultimately, we all make choices, and the day will either be grim and depressing — and that’s what you’ll look out for, or you can choose to enjoy your day, no matter what your circumstances are. This is all down to you.
If this article resonated with you, check out my latest book Look Inside: Stop Seeking Start Living available on Amazon.
If you want to connect with me to share insights from this article, I would love to hear from you. Send a message via e-mail to [email protected].