Dr Kate Daley, the clinical psychologist who wrote our Mind Your Mood Series, shares her thoughts on Blue Monday and explains why it’s important to pay attention to our feelings all year round.
Blue Monday. The name given to the most depressing day of the year, at least in the northern hemisphere.
What is Blue Monday?
It falls on the third Monday of January every year, and is claimed to be a result of a toxic combination of weather conditions, peak levels of debt, the end of the holiday season, failed new year resolutions, and generally low motivation.
It's been popularised in the media, yet there really isn’t much science behind it. In fact, the calculation behind Blue Monday has been called into question and it seems to have been a publicity stunt by a holiday company to help boost their flagging sales! Despite this, the media seem to like the concept and so it has stuck.
Now it is true that January can be a hard time of year for some of us: the days are cold, the nights are dark, and money (and belts!) can be tight after Christmas. There might be some sadness about the party season being over, leaving loved ones and returning to work, particularly if you’re in a role you’re not happy in, or one with high stress.
The difference between low mood and depression
But it’s important to know that feeling unhappy about these things isn’t the same as experiencing depression (although it's possible to experience both).
Depression lasts for a longer period of time and can happen throughout the year. Feeling depressed is more than just feeling sad or blue – people can also experience tiredness, irritability and negative thoughts. They can lack motivation, enjoyment and interest, and experience changes in their activity levels, sleeping patterns and appetite. There's some seasonal variation in depression, for example seasonal affective disorder (SAD) where people experience depressive symptoms in winter, though less commonly it can occur in spring and summer too. Either way, it refers to the season – not a specific day.
Rethinking Blue Monday
Whether or not we buy into the idea of Blue Monday, it does bring one benefit: raising awareness. It allows people to stop and think about how they’re feeling, and to consider the possibility that they are not alone in their experience. For those who are feeling low in mood, it gives the opportunity to consider the factors which may be contributing to how they’re feeling, and to explore what they could do to improve things.
The concept of Blue Monday does have an undertone suggesting that feeling depressed is inevitable, however this clearly isn’t the case and there's also a lot we can do about it. One way to tackle depression is through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is an evidence-based therapy, which looks at changing how we think and what we do, in order to improve how we feel.
Boosting your mood with Unmind
At Unmind we’ve developed some Series – bite-sized digital courses – to tackle low mood and depression. They focus on changing activities and behaviours, and explore negative thoughts and beliefs.
- Finding Happiness: expand your sense of meaning and purpose in the world by unravelling behaviour patterns and finding out what's key to your own happiness.
- Activate Your Mood: understand your current mood cycles and make changes to your behaviour to improve your mood.
- Mind Your Mood: for helping you understand low mood and arming you with CBT techniques to improve it.
If you are feeling blue this Monday, take a moment to consider how long you’ve been feeling this way and whether this is something to tackle. You can talk with your doctor, or if you feel you need more urgent support then you can contact the Samaritans any time by calling 116 123 or emailing email@example.com.
Got an Unmind account?
To take the Series listed above, log in to Unmind and head to Series area.
Find out more about Unmind
If your organisation isn't an Unmind member and you'd like to learn more about our range of tools and resources spanning the whole spectrum of mental health and wellbeing, book a chat with a member of our team today.