It’s ‘Blue Monday’ on Monday January 18th – the third Monday of January – symbolically the most depressing day of the year.
And this potentially is not just another ‘PR contrived themed day but does provides a great opportunity to promote greater understanding about mental well-being, positive psychology, or just an excuse to have a good time.
There is no formal data to quantify the mood and state of people’s thinking on the particular day of ‘Blue Monday’ – originally defined by the psychologist Cliff Arnall as the third Monday of January.
We do however have some ‘data’, evidence, albeit of an informal, indirect kind: since 2005 the story and meme of Blue Monday has grown and grown in terms of scale of media coverage and people’s conversations , even a top Twitter trend.
This, offers evidence of an undefined modern phenomena, a zeitgeist – a mood of a time – perhaps indicating an under-the-surface feeling people share.
Why is Christmas Day on December 25th? One theory is that the early Christians merely piggy-backed on the existing Pagan ritual of celebrating mid winter. Seemingly, our ancestors perhaps wanted some cheering up in the middle of a bleak season.
By linking the new Christian celebration with an existing Pagan celebration it created a bigger occasion.
In the 21st century, even though surveys show a decline in religious belief and attendances at Christian churches in the UK, Christmas as a celebration keeps going and growing.
Because people want it to be: it fulfils other emotional, psychological and sociological needs.
Similarly, Blue Monday – perhaps helped by modern trends, such as the monthly pay check, the credit card bill, and a social habit of creating New Year’s resolutions, all helps create a further wave of discontentment.
The additional dimension of many people receiving their December pay cheque on Christmas Eve, is good news for having money for the festivities but bad news in making January a ‘five week month’ in terms of pay: your monthly salary has to extend to a further week.
The origins of Blue Monday may have been contrived. Yet, as a symbolic day even if it could generate less than 1% of that raised by say Comic Relief, it would realize £500,000 a year for good causes, such as those for mental health.Blue Monday can create a precious talking point and potential media hook for subjects which face difficulty getting a hearing, such as mental health, depression and suicide.
It also creates a welcome opportunity for positive well-being and asserting happiness and joy in the world.
On a previous Blue Monday I listened to a local BBC Radio station which played a series of uplifting, good mood enhancing songs, but also had a live outside broadcast from a school where youngsters had their jokes aired, (“Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other slide!” was a typical effort.)
The show later got a text from a woman, who was foster mother to one of the children who had their jokes broadcast. She was delighted how it had boosted the youngster’s confidence and self-esteem.
Doesn’t that make you feel good?
Good people, like the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere, in the Lake District is planning to mark “Blue Monday” with an exhibition of sunshine and colour.
The exhibition is free but visitors will have the chance to donate to MIND, the mental health charity and to pick up leaflets about dealing with SAD – seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that recurs in the winter months.
You can ignore Blue Monday, dismiss it as ‘bad science’ (even though it is only desribed as the ‘symbolically’ the most depressing day).
Or you can regard it as a power for good. Please do enjoy yourself on Blue Monday. I know I will! – please do check out the campaign web site www.beatbluemonday.org.uk