Compared to all the festivities of December, January is usually a quiet month for most. While one big party is set to happen this month - Chinese New Year - it’s likely you’ll be nursing an empty diary for much of the rest of January’s 31 days.
Nestled at the heart of January is Blue Monday - the so-called ‘worst day of the year’. On this day, we’re meant to have reached our lowest ebb of the entire calendar year.
With the highs of Christmas and New Year a distant memory, money still tight after the excesses of the previous month - not to mention the cold and the gloom of winter - it’s easy to believe that Blue Monday exists. Throw the cost of living crisis and other bad news - like the war in Ukraine - into the mix and the case for its existence grows stronger.
But is Blue Monday really a thing - and, if you are struggling with low mood this month, what steps could you take to make youself feel better?
What is Blue Monday?
Any month following December has an impossibly hard act to follow. So, it’s unfortunate for January that it finds itself in this position every year.
This month can feel like a big old slog given the cold, dark evenings and the fact that there is nothing in the calendar that quite matches the excitement and joy of Christmas. Blue Monday is said to be at the apex of these bad feelings and general lack of joy.
But, despite Blue Monday’s existence being widely acknowledged, there’s actually no scientific evidence for it. In fact, it originally came into the public consciousness as a result of a PR stunt.
The concept of Blue Monday was invented in 2004, when holiday firm Sky Travel asked psychologist Cliff Arnall to concoct a scientific formula for the January blues. This fact has led some to criticise the continued acknowledgement of the myth that Blue Monday is a real thing.
When is Blue Monday?
Blue Monday is said to always occur on the third Monday of January. So, in 2023, it is, unfortunately, today - Monday 16 January.
But it doesn’t have to be a sad or depressing day. Suicide prevention charity Samaritans has coined a new term for the day - ‘Brew Monday’ - a positive day when it says people should reach out to friends, family and colleagues over a cup of tea to make sure they’re feeling alright, or support them if they aren’t.
Samaritans says we all have good and bad days, and that one abstract date cannot determine when we feel certain things. It also says its Brew Monday idea should not only be a thing you do on Blue Monday, or solely in January. Rather, it says we should be trying to do it throughout the year.
How can you beat the January blues?
While Blue Monday is a myth, the January blues are a real thing. As well as the comedown from the excitement of Christmas and New Year, around two million people in the UK are affected by a medical condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD’s symptoms include:
- sleep problems
- feeling down and unsociable
But there are some simple things you can do to help you to get through any tough days. It is important to note that if you are really struggling with your mental health, you should seek out professional medical advice - for example, from a GP.
While many people start January with a ‘new year, new me’ attitude, you don’t have to run 100 miles on a treadmill to make yourself feel better. Walking in the middle of the day for an hour can be a very effective means of beating back the blues, according to the NHS.
Given it is often in short supply in winter, it is important to get enough sunlight. But it can also be helpful to spend time in and around nature, according to advice from the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
You don’t have to rip up your diet and do Veganuary to eat more healthily. The NHS recommends balancing your craving for carbohydrates, like pasta, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
It may also help to reduce your alcohol consumption, especially if December involved a lot of heavy drinking at parties and suchlike. Dry January has several tips for how to reduce, or even completely cut out alcohol over the next month or so.
Talk to friends and family or seek help
As Samaritans has suggested with its Brew Monday campaign, talking to other people can help you feel better as it will allow you to process your feelings. The charity also offers support over the phone, via email or online. Other mental health charities, like Mind, also have a variety of services you can use. But starting off by speaking to friends and family can do you a world of good.
Putting some events in your diary or even just planning a small weekend activity can help you to look forward, and give you a positive outlook. But don’t be afraid to reminisce either. Recalling and revisiting happy memories can bring about positive feelings and can improve your mental wellbeing, advice in the BMJ states.