'Blue Monday' is a hoax – but it could become the most depressing day of the year if you don't watch out

January 12, 2018 by Jolanta Burke, The Conversation
Don’t give up on dry January. Credit: VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

Over the past decade, hordes of innocent people have bought the idea that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year – despite there being no scientific evidence to support it. While retailers, beauty salons, travel agents and many other commercial bodies have capitalised on the concept, originally conceived by a PR company, mental health professionals have despaired. That's because, to many people, the Monday blues is a reality.

This may in part be due to the power of self-fulfilling prophecy. When we hold some expectations about an event, people, or ourselves, we start behaving in a way that matches our expectations. For example, thinking it is the most depressing day of the year, we might start paying more attention to the negative events around us – the boss who doesn't listen to our good advice, or the partner who isn't doing enough around the house.

Suddenly, we become so focused on thinking about what is bad about our lives that we become more tired, decide not to go to the gym after work and soon realise that our prophecy of the most depressive day of the year came true.

Another reason as to why Blue Monday can be a bad day is because it is inherent to all human beings to make sense of the randomness of the world around us. We seek out patterns that do not exist, because "chances", "randomness", or "messiness of life" make us feel uncomfortable.

We do this because we need to feel like we have control over our lives. When we control our lives, we believe there is some cause and effect – if I am a good person, good things will happen to me. If our lives are random, then our actions don't matter, making us panic and feeling helpless. This is why we force our brain to see meaning where there is no meaning.

This includes experiencing traumas in life. We sometimes make sense of difficult experiences by saying that it happened to us because we were meant to learn a lesson or realise who our real friends are.

For example, when we break up with someone after a few months of being in a toxic relationship, we conclude that we had to go through it to learn what a good relationship looks like – in other words, there was a meaning in our suffering. The truth is, we may have known about the good and bad relationship beforehand, but believing it to be true is easier for us to bear than saying that we have just wasted time with this person.

Similarly, we believe that it must be a blue Monday because we think we are somehow emotionally "in debt" after overindulging over Christmas – like we deserve a bad time. And suddenly we notice we are cold, miserable and close to three weeks into our challenging new year's resolutions, which have tested our willpower to the limits. It's easy to think we are doomed to have a depressing day.

While there is no of Blue Monday on the third Monday of January – or any other Monday in a year – research shows us that, unsurprisingly, our mood is significantly better on Fridays and over the weekend in general. Even people who love their jobs may show a rise in mood during these days. This may be due to many reasons. Most of us do not get a full night of restful sleep every day of the week – so a lie-in at the weekend can help us feel refreshed and boost our mood.

Also, when we're off, we may be more likely to go out and play, enjoy nature and meet up with friends, all of which are associated with higher levels of well-being. Finally, the weekend allows us some "me time" – space to be us and sometimes do nothing, as opposed to the other days when we keep ourselves occupied most of the time.

Happy Monday

Since Blue Monday is a hoax that may affect our thinking and emotions so much, let's turn it into Happy Monday and reap the benefits. Instead of searching for all that is going badly on the day, be mindful of all the good things that happen around you – that woman who held the bus door to prevent it from closing, the old lady who smiled at you for no reason or the little boy who gave you a big hug.

You can also boost your mood further by eating good food, as keeping the body healthy will improve your state of mind. You could even create a new, healthy routine, such as taking the stairs instead of a lift – or getting up earlier to do 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation before going to work. Spending the evening with friends or family rather than just lounging on the sofa could also help.

So let's actively make Blue Monday the happiest day of the year by savouring our morning coffee for a change, reflecting on the three things we are grateful for in our lives, or practising some acts of kindness for people around us. Happy Monday to you all!

Explore further: How to beat the Sunday night blues

Related Stories

How to beat the Sunday night blues

September 20, 2017
Have you ever felt sad or anxious on a Sunday night? As it turns out, you could be experiencing a common phenomenon known as the Sunday Night Blues. A Baylor College of Medicine expert gives his tips on how to beat the Sunday ...

What psychiatrists have to say about holiday blues

December 22, 2017
This time of the year brings a lot of changes to the usual day-to-day life of hundreds of millions of people: The weather is colder, trees are naked, snowy days become plentiful and friendly critters are less visible around ...

True happiness isn't about being happy all the time

January 10, 2018
Over the past two decades, the positive psychology movement has brightened up psychological research with its science of happiness, human potential and flourishing. It argues that psychologists should not only investigate ...

Feeling sad? Here's how to beat the holiday blues

December 28, 2017
(HealthDay)—The holiday blues might be a common phenomenon, but there's plenty you can do to protect your mental health this time of year.

How to soothe yourself to sleep

October 30, 2017
Getting a good night of sleep can seem like the most effortless and natural thing in the world, but when we can't fall asleep it can quickly feel elusive and frustrating. There are a few techniques we can use to help us fall ...

Recommended for you

Early career choices appear to influence personality, study finds

December 10, 2018
In the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, 16-year-old students in middle-track schools decide whether to stay in school to pursue an academic career or enroll in a vocational training program. A new study offers evidence ...

Regular problem solving does not protect against mental decline

December 10, 2018
The well known 'use it or lose it' claim has been widely accepted by healthcare professionals, but researchers in the Christmas issue of The BMJ find that regularly doing problem solving activities throughout your lifetime ...

When scientists push people to their tipping point

December 10, 2018
You probably overestimate just how far someone can push you before you reach your tipping point, new research suggests.

Internet therapy apps reduce depression symptoms, study finds

December 7, 2018
In a sweeping new study, Indiana University psychologists have found that a series of self-guided, internet-based therapy platforms effectively reduce depression.

Gender bias sways how we perceive competence in faces

December 7, 2018
Faces that are seen as competent are also perceived as more masculine, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Targeted cognitive training benefits patients with severe schizophrenia

December 7, 2018
Schizophrenia is among the most difficult mental illnesses to treat, in part because it is characterized by a wide range of dysfunction, from hallucinations and mood disorders to cognitive impairment, especially verbal and ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.