Is there really a day that is grayer - I mean, bluer - than the others? Theoretically not, but the question is legitimate. It is in fact common belief to label the third Monday of January as Blue Monday, saddest day of the year. Despite the fact that this recurrence has consolidated over time, the origin of Blue Monday has left many with doubts.
Blue Monday began to be talked about in 2005 when Cliff Arnall, a psychologist at the University of Cardiff, came to define in his research the third Monday of January as the saddest day of the year for most people. How did he get to this point? It seems that in the early 2000s Arnall developed an equation that took into consideration various elements, including: the weather, the money spent during the Christmas holidays, the time elapsed since Christmas, the failure of his own resolutions for the new year and the drop in motivation due to the period following the holidays. In short, an equation that considers all those variables that can cause our low level of motivation. Based on this calculation, the first Blue Monday was defined: January 24, 2005.
When Cliff Arnall communicated this result, however, Cardiff University distanced itself from Arnall, devoting that research to pseudoscience. There was no shortage of criticism of Blue Monday even then. First of all, over time other two different equations were issued to determine "the saddest day of the year" and in both cases no unit of measurement was attributed. Moreover, it seems that the invention of Blue Monday was nothing more than a great publicity stunt orchestrated by Sky Travel. The intent of this pr stunt was to convince people that their sadness in January had a scientific basis and that the only way to get rid of it was by organising a vacation. Thus the tertiary sector has exploited sadness and monotony by attributing to travel a dreamy and saving function, which removes "negative emotions" and returns to fill life with joy and optimism.
Various scientists and scholars have then highlighted the total lack of a mathematical criterion at the basis of the Blue Monday equation. However, the "gimmick" has had some luck over the years, so much so that many continue to give importance to this date.
Nevertheless, it is critical to remember that depression is not a one day event. Blue Monday creates a problem of fundamental importance. Identifying the third Monday of January as the saddest day of the year not only suggests the misconception that depression is something that can appear at a certain time and vanish the very next day, but also that we can trace the ‘causes’ to very specific (sometimes fairly facile) things.
Playing it so fast and loose with mental health terminology can have some insidious effects. In an interview with The Independent, Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind, explained that Blue Monday campaigns often trivialise what can be a serious, debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition: “One in six of us will experience depression at some time in our lives, and it can have devastating effects on every part of our lives. It can leave people unable to sleep, feeling disconnected from others and experiencing suicidal thoughts. By suggesting anyone and everyone can feel depressed in a single day, we risk belittling the experiences of those living with a serious illness.”
In 2016, Mind even launched a campaign called #BlueAnyDay in an attempt to try to dispel the myth that Blue Monday had something – anything – to do with depression. It's now time to stop this myth about Monday being 'blue' and instead start having real conversation about mental health. On the government website you can find plenty of resources and information on depression, mental health symptoms, cognitive behavioural therapy and helplines in addition to tips on self-care, getting enough sleep, and staying active.
Written by Miriam Tagini