We can all be affected by winter, it’s impact on our lives and all that goes with it good, bad or indifferent. There certainly is less light and the days can be grey, wet and cold. January, or more generally winter, can be a difficult time for different and varied reasons, however, it usually depends on other factors too: such as an individuals circumstances and mental health.
Perhaps one reason though for ‘blueness’, is the heightened run up to Christmas, shortly followed by the inevitable count down to new year. Understandably we may then experience post holiday blues, a slump or anti-climax, with returning to how things were before Christmas. This can often be accompanied with certain inescapable mantras and beliefs expounded by the media such as, ‘a new year, a new you’ or how to escape the January Blues. It seems that January is the only month which is often described as miserable and ‘blue’; whilst being the first month of the new year, also associated with new starts and beginnings.
It could be argued that we are constantly being told how we should feel and be during this season; reinforced and promoted by our society, traditions and the media. Generally, Christmas equals being happy, togetherness, partying and over indulging…. Whilst New Year equals resolutions, detoxifying, and being motivated.
Simply put, December is the month of celebration, indulgence and unity then quickly given over to January which is often about self-discipline, individualism and abstinence, new beginnings…. and possibly feeling ‘blue’.
There is now a more recent innovation telling us exactly how we are supposed to be feeling. The invention of ‘Blue Monday’, brought to our society in 2005. Advertising, the media and PR companies have made it a ‘thing’. This is where the third Monday of January is deemed to be the most depressing day of the year. In 2017 ‘Blue Monday’ apparently falls on January 16th.
This was put forward by a psychologist and life coach who made up a ‘scientific’ equation to prove his theory, as part of a press release for a holiday company. The equation which comprises: time elapsed since Christmas, monthly salary which then calculates ‘debt’, ‘weather’, ‘motivation’ and ‘need to take action’. The answer leaves us with ‘Blue Monday’ for everyone, the third Monday in January…..
In 2010, five years after this rather misleading concept, a journalist interviewed the inventor of ‘Blue Monday’ who “refutes the whole notion” of the existence of the most depressing day of the year. He considers that it may not have been very helpful in many ways, stating that his invention of Blue Monday, as the most depressing day of the year, has become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
It may be believed that at least it is getting people to talk about depression. This is where many involved in the mental health sector have concerns with the concept of ‘Blue Monday’. Largely because ‘Blue Monday’ is labelled as fact with a scientific formula evidencing ‘The most depressing day of the year’. Fundamentally, depression is not just experienced on one day: there is a big difference from feeling down or ‘blue’ and suffering from depression which is a serious condition and not something to be trivialised or reduced to a formula which claims to be scientific.
It is important as individuals that we are able to celebrate and be happy when we can and want to; and be sad when we are and not have our feelings dictated to. Our feelings are our own and we can have and experience a variety of emotions at any time or season and on any given day of the year.
There is no Blue Monday only a publicity stunt that took hold.
Eleanor Rockell, who runs her own practice, London City Psychotherapy based in Bethnal Green, has been a practising therapist for over ten years. Having worked in the NHS and now running her own private practice, Eleanor is an experienced therapist who holds a Masters of Science in Psychodynamics of Human Development from The University of London and is also registered with the BACP.