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Blue Monday doesn’t have to be a blue day

January 16, 2023

With the buzz of Christmas and New Year celebrations having come and gone, we are now faced with what feels like an even longer January. Nestled in this month is ‘Blue Monday’, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, which always falls on the third Monday in January. This year, it’s the 16th January.

Did you know it was a holiday company that founded the idea of Blue Monday for a PR campaign in 2005? The formula used to determine the date may not be particularly scientific, but there are many seasonal factors that are in play. Not only are we heading back to work and experiencing those 'Sunday Scaries', but we’re also dealing with the effects of shorter, darker, wintery days and financial difficulties following the festivities – which may be even tougher for some with the cost-of-living crisis.

It can be a difficult time for us all. For someone with depression or who experiences seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it can make their symptoms worse.

Blue Monday doesn’t have to be a blue day. Samaritans recently coined a new term for the day, ‘Brew Monday’ to turn it into a positive day of checking in with friends, family and colleagues over a hot drink. And if you sense your spirits flagging, here are some simple things you can do to protect yourself against factors that might trigger low mood.

Plan ahead to combat the January slump. The holidays can go by very fast, and it sometimes feel like we’re plodding through an exceptionally longer January with the post-Christmas lull. So it’s important to create an achievable routine you can stick to and give yourself something to look forward to. This will minimise the chances of dwelling on negative thoughts and avoid a ‘vicious cycle’ that makes you feel worse.

Make a list of all the things you’d like to do and the people you’d like to do them with. These could include going to see a film, heading into the countryside for a walk or having lunch with a friend who makes you laugh.

Set yourself up for a positive day. Get a good night’s sleep by taking some time to wind down before going to bed. Try putting your devices down and reading a book instead. Practise gratitude with a journal – write down three good things that have happened or that you’ve heard about. It could be anything from completing an outdoor run to finding a missing pair of socks!

Take time out for yourself by planning a ‘me day’. This is a day you can look forward to every so often to be present with yourself and recharge your mind. Dedicate some time in the day to focus on activities you enjoy, whether it’s re-watching your favourite shows on TV, eating cereal for dinner, or running a warm bath at the end of the day.

Spend some time in the daylight, even if it’s only a few minutes. Spring can seem like a long way off at this time of year. With many of us still leaving for work and returning home in the dark, it can help to get into the daylight every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Research from NHS Inform has shown a daily one-hour walk can be a very effective way of beating back the blues – so try getting outside for a short stroll during your lunch break. Take some time whilst you’re walking around to notice how the first green shoots of snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils are already starting to push their way up from the soil.

Let go of negative thoughts and predictions. Our thoughts, behaviours and emotions are connected – so if we find yourself thinking, for example, ‘Blue Monday is going to be miserable for me’, this may influence our feelings and behaviours, which could lead to more negative thoughts. Let go of thoughts that are skewed negatively by focusing on the present activity you’re doing and people you’re with. Make an effort to notice the small details around you. Ask logical questions to look at the situation differently, like ‘if my train was delayed, is it true that the next one will? Am I trying to interpret this without all the evidence? Am I 100% certain this is true?’

Please seek professional support if you are feeling especially down in light of Blue Monday. You can talk to your GP about what help is available or you could try online therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is very effective at treating depression – you can find out more about how it works here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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