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January 11, 2022 • read
How to boost your mood on Blue Monday
Mondays typically aren’t fun for anyone. The weekend is over, it’s the start of the workweek with many emails to catch up on, and there are five days to go until you have two glorious days off again. But one Monday, in particular, seems to be the most dreaded of all – Blue Monday.
This year it’ll fall on January 17th and as always, Blue Monday is known as the most depressing day of the year. Throw in the COVID-19 pandemic and you might be feeling the effects of this day even more.
Here’s why Blue Monday has been dubbed the saddest day of the year, what you can do to prevent it from affecting your mood, mental health, and more.
What is Blue Monday and why is it considered the most depressing day of the year?
While the third Monday of every month is known as Blue Monday, there’s actually little to no scientific evidence proving that it really is the saddest day of the year.
The name Blue Monday was part of a marketing strategy by a travel company based in the U.K. back in 2005, and the name caught on. However, it’s not unrealistic to think that the third Monday in January each year isn’t exactly the happiest day of the year.
The theory is that three things make Blue Monday… well, blue. First, the third Monday in January usually means it’s pretty cold out, especially for Canadians. Whether it snows or not, it’s chilly – definitely not a good time – and the days are long and dark. Sunshine, warmth, and fun vacation days seem far away.
Second, the aftermath of spending too much money over the holidays really hits home. While you might have felt merry and bright shopping for gifts in December, you’re now able to clearly see the massive dent they made in your bank account. Reality sets in about having to pay off your credit card bills and sticking to a tighter budget for the next little while.
And third, feelings of guilt arise because you might not have followed through on those new year’s resolutions like exercising more, eating healthy, and drinking less (to name a few). What seemed so promising heading into January may now feel like something you’re unmotivated to accomplish. And even though you shouldn’t feel this way about a new year’s resolution, it can make you feel pretty poorly about yourself.
What does Blue Monday mean for my mental health?
When January 17th arrives this year, you may feel the stress of those lingering holiday bills. Or, shame and guilt because you haven’t followed through on your new year’s resolutions. Both of these things can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
And then, of course, there are the cold, long, darker days, which can also have a negative impact on your mental health. The effects of winter weather on your mental health are something that shouldn’t be overlooked and simply considered a case of the winter blues.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of recurring depression that takes place during the winter months and is specifically linked to less daylight, promoting a chemical imbalance in the brain. This can lead to symptoms that are similar to that of depression. Some of these overlapping symptoms include oversleeping/daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, thoughts of suicide, feeling more jittery or moving slower than usual, and decreased pleasure or interest in things you previously enjoyed.
About two to three percent of Canadians will experience SAD at some point in their lives. Another 15% will experience a milder form of SAD, which leaves them slightly depressed. And certain groups of people are at a higher risk of SAD such as adults (however, the risk decreases after the age of 50), women, and those who live in more northern countries or cities.
If you think you may have SAD, research suggests you should try getting natural light exposure within an hour of waking, so it may be best to set your alarm clock a little bit earlier each day. You also should know that treatment is available. Along with speaking to a therapist, SAD can be treated with bright light therapy, as discussed with your healthcare provider.
Bright light therapy involves a light therapy box that mimics natural outdoor light. Patients incorporate light therapy boxes into their daily routine, whether it’s sitting beside one while working, after work hours, or on their own recreational time.
When SAD symptoms are severe and negatively impacting your day-to-day function, an antidepressant may be needed to help improve your symptoms. A mental health provider can discuss this with you to see if antidepressants can help, and which one is right for you.
How can I beat the winter blues this Blue Monday?
Just because Blue Monday is upon us, doesn’t mean you can’t combat it. Here’s what you can do to feel better when the winter blues rolls around.
1. Surround yourself with those you love. Maybe you want to have dinner with your family or close friends, or you just want to hang out with your four-legged friend. Being around your loved ones isn’t just a mood booster, but it’s also a good distraction from the day itself.
2. Manage your screen time. While Blue Monday might seem like the perfect opportunity to curl up under a blanket and scroll through Instagram or TikTok, too much screen time can negatively impact your mental health. Focus your attention elsewhere, like doing something active, getting together with family and friends, or even trying out a new hobby.
3. Seek professional help. This is a great way to cope with the feelings you may experience leading up to, on, or after Blue Monday. You can even speak to a therapist online so you don’t have to leave home and brave the cold. Getting help from a therapist is one of the best things you can do for yourself and it’s never too late to get started.
4. Find time in your day to meditate. Meditation is like exercise for the mind, helping to strengthen mental muscles that allow you to achieve peace and calm. And while just one meditation session won’t cure all, it’s a great way to practice being calm. Eventually, mental muscles become so strong that you can enter a peaceful and focused state at any time. And who knows, it might become a new passion of yours!
5. Make time to exercise. Exercising can improve your mood and even help you sleep better at night. Whether you’re working out at the gym, doing yoga in your living room, or just going for a walk around your neighborhood, exercise triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, which in turn boosts your mood.
How do I deal with the Monday morning blues?
Now that you’ve got Blue Monday covered, what about the Monday morning blues that come with dozens of “regular” Mondays each week? If you wake up on Monday mornings dreading the week, you’re not alone. In fact, researchers have even concluded that more suicides happen on Mondays in general.
The Monday morning blues are real, specifically for those who are in their teens and 20s. It’s even recommended that suicide prevention strategies be put in place to help reduce the burden and stress of Mondays for these age groups.
Whether it’s school, work, or even just the thought of making it through an entire week that gives you the Monday morning blues, here’s how to make Mondays more manageable.
1. Go to bed earlier on Sunday night. Getting a full night of sleep can help you feel refreshed when your alarm goes off on Monday morning. If you find you have trouble getting to sleep early on Sunday nights, avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening, use low lighting as you prepare for bed, and try not to watch television or use your cell phone in the bedroom.
2. Make it a point to laugh. If this seems like an odd way to deal with Mondays, there are actually many benefits of laughter for your mental health, from decreasing stress-making hormones to altering dopamine and serotonin activity. Laughter is even considered an alternative treatment for stress and depression. So talk to your funniest friend on a Monday or put on your favourite stand-up special on Netflix and have a chuckle or two.
3. Make a list of things you’re looking forward to that week. Even if some things on your list are set to take place over the weekend, they can still motivate you to be more positive about making it through the week.
4. Get fresh air and sunlight. Sunlight specifically has been scientifically proven to boost your mood. Whether it’s going for an early morning walk with your dog or just a stroll on your lunch break, make time to take in fresh air and soak up some vitamin D.
5. Don’t overdo it with your schedule. If you’re trying to pack in a full day of work, a trip to the gym, and then planning on making a gourmet meal, scale back on your plans. Maybe you work out for a shorter period of time and pick a simpler recipe to complete that evening. Whatever the case may be, make sure your schedule is realistic to fit everything in so you’re not overwhelmed.
How do I know if I need help for my mental health?
While Blue Monday started as a marketing gimmick, the effects of feeling down – no matter what day it may be – can be detrimental to your mental health.
Oftentimes there are signs that what you’re thinking or feeling requires help from a professional. Common symptoms to watch out for include feeling excessively low, extreme mood changes, substance abuse, changes in sex drive, difficulty concentrating, and much more.
Other times, symptoms aren’t glaringly obvious. Maybe you aren’t experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, but all you want to do is talk to someone outside of your circle about being stressed out at work, relationship changes, or family issues. There’s help for that.
Your mental health doesn’t have to fall by the wayside for 2022. Therapy is one of the best ways to overcome life’s challenges and with Maple, you can talk to a Canadian-licensed therapist online. Simply connect via live chat or video, and get the help you need from the comfort of your own home – on Blue Monday or any other day of the year.