The third Monday in January is known as ‘Blue Monday,’ or the most depressing day of the year (Dr. Cliff Arnall, 2005). Initially, a marketing ploy to drive business for a travel company, ‘Blue Monday,’ has little to no research proving its legitimacy as being uniquely more depressing than any other day. So, why write about it? Well, just because it doesn’t stand up to psychological scrutiny doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be said about a time of year shroud in cold, wet, freezing, darkness, which all heavily and negatively affect our mood.
The sun is our friend when it comes to promoting active and social behaviour, so when it gets dark at 4:30 PM, and you’re shaking off your umbrella and raincoat, oh, and throw the ever-present worry of COVID-19, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a low mood. Not everyone experiences this, but many do, and I’m here to tell you it’s a normal reaction to a difficult situation. Still, by and large, we don’t want to be sad, and it isn’t useful as we attempt to stay focused on our work, helping others, and maintaining our own health.
While a low mood can look very different for each person, including apathy, lack of motivation, sadness, anxiety, frustration, forgetfulness, anger, and much more- there are some techniques to keep in mind as you look to beat the ‘Blue Monday’ blues.
- Notice things to be grateful for and express that gratitude daily. When we are in a low mood or even depressed, our mind has trouble seeing the good around us and focuses on the negative to keep itself in that sad state. We often miss that a door was held open for us or that we made that green light in time- instead, we notice every time someone bumps into us and how long the lineups we choose at the grocery store are. Take time throughout your day to register the good things that happen to you, no matter how small. If there’s someone to say thank you to, do it, and maybe even make their day a bit better. Consider journaling all the things (or even just one) you have to be grateful for that day and read it before you sleep to help jolt your mind into realizing it’s not all bad out there in the dark winter world.
- Find a routine that works for you and stick to it. While variety is the spice of life, a healthy routine can be the kick in the pants a low mood needs. Some of the patterns most affected by a depressed state include eating, exercising, and sleeping. These three pillars are vital to you feeling like you can take on the day (and early night). If your sleep schedule is interrupted, you’re tired throughout the day, making it more challenging to convince your body to get some exercise. This leads to feelings of guilt and apathy about all things healthy, which can mean ordering in fast food that instantly satisfies but doesn’t properly feed our bodies. Finding a regular expectation for yourself in terms of sleep, diet, and exercise and creating a routine out of it you stick to will be a giant leg up on managing the doldrums of this time of year.
- Talk to someone about it. Feeling down isn’t something to be ashamed about, and in fact, it’s a trick of that low mood to make you think you’re broken. Everyone experiences low moods, and stay connected during those times is paramount to getting through them. While it’s unreasonable to expect your friends and family to snap their fingers and relieve you of the sadness you feel, just knowing someone has heard you that times aren’t perfect right now will do heaps of good to get you out of that place that things you’re alone with your pain. It’s not that misery loves company; rather, feeling low is helped when it hears it isn’t the only sadness being experienced in the world right now. These aren’t easy times, and the chill and darkness of winter make it even harder- don’t go through it alone and let people who care about you know that you’re having a tough time. Friends, family, a trained therapist- find what works for you and let you know this is temporary, and you will get through it with time and some healthy choices.
At The Neutral Zone we have an experienced clinical team that can assist you or loved ones through these trying times- no matter what colour the day is.