Blue Monday and a possible antidote to winter downers

Blue Monday and an antidote to winter blues

This week we have Blue Monday, apparently.

The most downbeat day of the year: A day when the warmth of the holiday festivities has receded, when there’s a stark realisation that there’s still a couple of weeks left of January, when the January pay has yet to arrive in the account and the financial indulgences of Christmas has forced the tightening of multiple belts. And it’s Monday, that bleakest day of the week.

Like lots of things, Blue Monday was invented by marketers.

There’s a short chapter in Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, titled “Resistance and Self-Medication”, that includes the line:

I once worked as a writer for a big New York ad agency. Our boss used to tell us: Invent a disease. Come up with the disease, he said, and we can sell the cure.

Attention Deficit Disorder, Seasonal Affect Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder. These aren’t diseases. They’re marketing ploys. Doctors didn’t discover them, copywriters did. Marketing departments did. Drug companies did.

Blue Monday is the same.

It was first coined, it’s said, by travel agency Sky Travel in 2005 as a marketing ploy to sell holidays in January.

Here’s a catchy graphic from Posability. (The key line: An exercise in complete pseudoscience.)

The Blue Monday equation


So Blue Monday is made up.

But the feelings that can come with this time of year, the winter blues, can be extra real.

For those of us bound to jobs that don’t inspire us or are disconnected from any meaning beyond next week’s pay-check, the fear of Monday mornings is real.

For those of us who found ourselves over-indulging over the holidays, the effects — on our bodies, our minds and our bank balances — is real.

For those of us in the northern and western hemispheres, the sun rises late and sets early, and even on its brightest days it lacks warmth.

So it may not just be on Mondays, and blue might be an overused cliché for downbeat, but this experience is as real as can be for many of us, perhaps millions of us.

Is there any antidote?

There is.

To get better. To understand ourselves better. To wrestle with our worldview until we can build the behaviour and habit change we aspire to build.  To move slower at this time of year, as moving slower now might in the long march of time achieve more.

That process of self-knowledge and self-awareness and self-expression is step by step, minute by minute, day by day, every day for the rest of your life.

The sun will rise a moment earlier tomorrow, and set a moment later, and carry a fraction more warmth, and before long there will be snowdrops, and then daffodils, and then tulips. The world turns and transforms, and we turn and transform with it.

Anne Frank in her diary wrote:

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Improving the world starts with improving you. And it can start right now, without waiting a single moment more, by opening yourself to the possibility of seeing things differently.

Would you like to receive my thoughts via email? As part of the Life Well Lived Project, I send out a bulletin of the stuff I’ve thought about, read, watched, enjoyed, experienced or pondered every weekend, and one longer essay (usually on the first Friday of every month). I also try to write regular shorter blogs (such as this one) on weekdays. You can sign up to receive them here.