Blue Monday: Is it really the most depressing day of the year?

Stock picture of a woman feeling down. Today marks Blue Monday. (Getty Images)
What is Blue Monday and is it real? (Getty Images)

How are you feeling this morning? Let us guess…blue? But then again it is Blue Monday. Or so we’re told.

If you think about it, it sort of makes sense that you’re not going to be feeling totally tip top in January. Christmas is but a distant memory, it hasn't stopped raining and the cost of living crisis means we're all skint with a capital S.

It's no wonder, therefore, that #BlueMonday is currently trending on Twitter.

But though we’re not feeling on top of our game is today really the most depressing day of the year?

From where the term comes from, to advice on how to feel a little more perky, read on for your definitive guide to Blue Monday.

Watch: Five ways to lift your spirits on Blue Monday

Blue Monday: Everything you need to know in 9 points.

What is Blue Monday? Blue Monday is a term used to describe the date when people are most likely to report feelings of sadness or despair.

And although it is believed to be based on a complex algorithm, many academics cite the day as being purely a result of pseudoscience.

When is Blue Monday? Blue Monday typically falls on the third Monday of January and this year, it rolled around on the 16th January.

Where did the term come from? Interestingly, the concept of the date was first introduced to the public via a press release by Sky Travel back in 2005. The team collaborated with psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall and created an algorithm to predict when the saddest day of the year would occur.

Stock picture of a woman feeling low. (Getty Images)
While Blue Monday may not be real, many people are suffering from the blues at this time of year. (Getty Images)

Is Blue Monday real? Even Dr Arnall has admitted that Blue Monday is a 'self-fulfilling prophecy', as a consequence to the number of PR companies jumping on the trend in recent years for the purpose of profit.

While, neuroscientist Dean Burnett has also described the concept of Blue Monday as ‘scientifically ridiculous’.

The date can prove dangerous for those struggling with their mental health. Particularly those who battle with depression regardless of what day it is.

In response, mental health charity Mind previously founded the #BlueAnyDay hashtag to remind the public that one in six people struggle with depression at some point in their lifetimes and that the illness is not something to trivialise.

“Blue Monday contributes to damaging misconceptions about depression and trivialises an illness that can be life threatening," says Mind’s Head of Information Stephen Buckley. "One in six people will experience depression during their life. It can be extremely debilitating with common symptoms including inability to sleep, seeing no point in the future, feeling disconnected from other people and experiencing suicidal thoughts."

But many of us are feeling blue this year. While the concept of Blue Monday was a marketing stunt to try to sell more holidays, it is widely thought that January is a month when many of us struggle mentally.

And this year with concerns about the cost of living crisis, soaring energy bills and rising mortgage rates, it could be that many of us are feeling some anxiety about the year ahead.

This is seemingly highlighted by new research revealing that three in ten Brits (30%) are generally unhappier in January than the rest of the year.

The study, commissioned by Silentnight, found that despite it not being technically real, one in five (20%) UK adults suffer from Blue Monday symptoms, including tiredness, lethargy, lack of motivation, and feeling sad.

According to the data, the dark mornings and nights are largely responsible for this shift in mood, (14%), as well as cold weather (14%), and post-Christmas and new year blues (11%).

Stock picture of a man feeling sad. (Getty Images)
Blue Monday may be a myth but many of us are still feeling low this January. (Getty Images)

Thankfully there are some ways to tackle the January blues. Starting with trying to get more sleep. "Deep sleep, or slow wave sleep, results in our bodies release growth and repair hormones – helping restore the brain," explains Hannah Shore, sleep expert at Silentnight. "Lighter sleep, like REM, allows the brain to recover. This is how memory consolidation, learning and emotional processing is achieved."

She suggests trying to calm down before bed time with a reliable routine, meditation or calming music.

Getting outside can also boost mood this January. "It is thought that around two million people in the UK suffer from the winter blues, with people of all ages affected, including children," explains Dr Felicity Baker, clinical psychologist and co-founder at Ultimate Resilience. "Linked to a reduction in exposure to sunlight, increases in the neurotransmitter melatonin affect our emotions and behaviour. This can lead to us feeling depressed and unmotivated."

But there are a number of strategies that can help. Dr Baker suggests going outdoors particularly at midday when the sun is at its highest. "Sitting near windows and painting your home with pale colours will allow you to benefit from reflected light from outside," she adds. "Giving yourself time to rest is key to managing the winter blues. Taking time out to relax, engaging in a hobby, talking to a friend or watching a movie may feel indulgent but will help you to feel more energised."

Scheduling time with friends and family can also help. Dr Marianne Trent, clinical psychologist at Good Thinking Psychological Services says the combination of going back to work after the Christmas break combined with the increased costs to live can make things feel a bit bleak at this time of year.

"It can be helpful to prepare in advance by scheduling time with people whom you feel validated by and/or those who make your heart feel full or tears of laughter slide down your cheeks," she says. "Focusing on rest, wellness and nourishing yourself well can also be incredibly helpful."

And if you're feeling really low seek help. “We want to remind people that depression can happen at any time and that Mind is available to help people throughout the year,” Stephen Buckley continues.

“If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one then it is important to seek support. Our website has lots of information on depression including tips for helping yourself and guidance for friends and family.”

For more information and further guidance visit the Mind website or call the Infoline: 0300 123 3393.