Blue Monday 2023: five books to lift your spirits on most depressing day of year

It doesn’t have to be ‘Blue Monday’, dubbed the most depressing day of the year - how about we make it ‘Book Monday’ instead?

It is coming up to that time where we tighten our belts following the holiday season both in terms of our wallets and diets. Worse still, apparently the most depressing day of the year has arrived. Today (16 January) is so-called ‘Blue Monday’, which combines a number of factors including post-Christmas celebrations accompanied by the long, cold, dark nights of winter. What is the solution? Read your way through the January blues.

Why is it called ‘Blue Monday?’

The concept is thought to have originated in 2005 after a press release from UK travel company Sky Travel used an equation to calculate the dreaded date. However, notable journalist and Bad Science columnist Ben Goldacre debunked the theory, stating that a PR agency had approached a number of scientists, one of whom was Dr Cliff Arnall, who was reportedly commissioned to create a ‘formula’ to deliver the calculation. The psychologist was at the time a tutor at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, a further education centre attached to Cardiff University.

Dr Arnall’s former colleague, The Happy Brain author Dr. Dean Burnett said himself that the date was a “non-phenomenon” and “pseudoscientific”. On the other hand, there is no denying that the pandemic has created and exacerbated mental health challenges. According to a 2021 study by The Lancet, there were an additional 76.2 million cases of anxiety disorders globally, an increase of 25%.

How can reading help?

According to The Telegraph, cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis from the University of Sussex revealed in findings from 2009 that reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes can be enough to reduce the stress levels by more than two thirds. Reading was also reported to be 300% better than taking a walk and 68% better than listening to music.

And the UK’s largest reading charity BookTrust reported that people who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile.

So what are the best books to be reading this joyless January?

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