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  • Nancy Webb

Why Is Blue Monday Considered The Saddest Day Of the Year?

When Life gives you Monday, dip it in Glitter and Sparkle all day. - Ella Woodward

Blue Monday and Seasonal Affective Disorder

The third Monday of January is known as Blue Monday in some parts of the world. With the Christmas and New Year celebrations behind us, January’s cold and dark days can really get us down. But where does the term Blue Monday come from and what can you do about it?

Blue Monday was conceptualized by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2005. A UK travel company hired Arnall to help predict when people are most likely to book vacations. Arnall, working as a part-time tutor at Cardiff University Center in Wales proposed that people are likely to plan or go on vacations when they are feeling down. He devised a formula to calculate the most depressing day of the year. The formula consists of seven variables: the weather, debt, monthly salary, time elapsed since Christmas, failed New Year’s resolutions, motivational levels, and the feeling that they need to take action.

What can you do when you get a Blue Monday?

Use it as a catalyst to take stock of your life, banish boredom, (more on boredom below), and devise a plan to do the things you have always dreamed of doing. Whether it is changing jobs or your career, making new friends, expanding your network, taking up or starting new hobbies, or booking those adventures on your bucket list, January is a great time to make those big decisions.

Boredom: The desire for desires. - Leo Tolstoy

Boredom and Depression

Research has shown that chronic boredom can increase your risk factors for mental health issues, leading to negative thinking patterns, impulsivity, and self-destructive behaviors. Yes, everyone gets bored at times. Cultivating different interests and hobbies can help you prevent long stretches of boredom. When we are engaged in an activity that we enjoy, it is much easier to take care of our mental health. Engaging in new hobbies, meeting new friends, or going on adventures are all productive ways to combat boredom.

I was just thinking if it is really religion with these nudist colonies, they sure must turn atheists in the wintertime. - Will Rogers

Winter Blues aka Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD, is defined by Emily Kurlansik, PsyD, a clinical neuropsychologist as a combination of biological and mood disturbances resulting in a type of depression in which “people experience feelings of sadness and low energy, especially around the winter months when the days are the shortest.” It is unlike other forms of depression as it is marked by its seasonal mood fluctuations. Some of the common symptoms of SAD include hopelessness, irritability, low energy, loss of interest or pleasure, appetite changes, and sleep disturbances.

Managing SAD

According to Sue Pavlovich of the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association, these tips can help those affected by SAD.

Keep Active – Research has sown that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment.

Get Outside – Go outdoors in the natural daylight as much as possible, if not possible, sit near windows whenever you can.

Light Therapy – Some people find light therapy helpful for SAD. One way to get light therapy is to sit in front of a light box for up to 2 hours a day.

Keep Warm – Being cold can acerbate depression, and staying warm can help reduce the winter blues.

Eat Healthily – A healthy diet will boost your mood, and give you more energy. Balance your cravings for carbohydrates with fruit and vegetables.

Take up a New Hobby – Keeping active provides something to look forward to and concentrate on.

See Friends and Family – It has been shown that socializing is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch and accept any invitation you get to social events, even if you only go for a bit.

Talk it Through – Counselling, psychotherapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms.

Join a Support Group – Support groups help as they allow you to share your experience with others who know what it is like to have SAD.

Seek Help – If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, see your doctor for medical help.

It's better to be absolutely than absolutely boring. - Marilyn Monroe

The Science behind the Winter Blues

It is believed that the problem is the way that the body responds to light. The theory suggests that a lack of sunlight may stop a part of the hypothalamus in the brain from working properly. This in turn impacts the production of the hormone melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. It has been found that people with SAD produce it at higher levels than normal.

The production of serotonin could also be affecting, further impacting mood, appetite, and sleep. About 90% of the serotonin found in your body is in your intestines. Only 10% is produced in your brain. It is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. An essential amino acid means it can’t be made by your body; it has to be obtained from the foods you eat. The foods that can lead to increased serotonin levels are Salmon, Eggs, Cheese, Turkey, Tofu, Pineapples, Nuts, Seeds, and Oats.

You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake. - Unknown

Eating foods high in tryptophan will not necessarily boost serotonin levels on their own. It is a complex process. Your body needs carbohydrates to release insulin, which is needed to absorb amino acids. So, even if tryptophan does get into your blood it has to compete with the other amino acids to get absorbed into your brain.


The notion of Blue Monday can be misleading for people who struggle with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts who may mistakenly think they are predestined to feel blue on that day or assume that they will feel better once Blue Monday passes.

Depression is complicated and can cause a wide range of symptoms. It also has many causes, including chemical, and substance abuse, grief, social, situational, adverse childhood events, or previous traumatic experiences.

Please note that if you have thoughts of suicide, get help straight away. or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor or through Crisis Text Line, Text GO to 741741 both of which are not-for-profit organizations. They are free, open 24/7 and of course confidential.

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