As we head into the last few days of January, I wanted to make sure that you’ve all coped with the most miserable month of the year – the month which contains what the mainstream media have, in recent years, taken to calling Blue Monday.
Blue Monday, cited as the 3rd Monday in January, is apparently THE most depressing day of the year. Based on an “equation” that calculates factors including debt, weather and motivation, this spurious claim has led to an outbreak of – at best – well-meant efforts by businesses to cheer their workforce up (wear your slippers/bright colours to work today guys, and be nicer to each other!) and, at worst, brands capitalising on it to increase sales (you’re more depressed than ever today, book a holiday with us to cheer yourself up!).
But my biggest gripe with the whole ridiculous business is that it harms the public understanding of what depression really is, and it’s disrespectful to those who suffer from genuine depression.
OK, so you might feel fed up in January; Christmas excesses may have left you with big bills to pay and an inability to squeeze into your skinny jeans. You might be dog-tired, sick of the dreary weather and frustrated that your New Year’s resolutions failed (again). Down there in the dumps, you might have even shed a few tears. But this is all OK, normal even! It’s natural, from time to time, to feel demotivated, discouraged, to cry, to not want to get up when the alarm goes off. But have you cried for 3 days straight? Have you not been able to get yourself out of bed for days? Are you incapable of functioning?
The problem with Blue Monday is that it suggests that depression is a minor, temporary affliction, experienced by everyone, at the same time, and caused by a set of generalised and arbitrary variables. If, like me, you have suffered from depression or watched a loved one experience it, you’ll know that it really doesn’t work like that. This chronic and often debilitating condition is a far cry from being in a funk because the weather’s bleak and you don’t want to go back to work.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that we should all be gentler with others, and ourselves; I can’t imagine a life where we didn’t all carry out acts of kindness towards each other, big and small….but the idea of fixating on a particular DAY to do these things is, in my opinion, ludicrous. Shouldn’t we all be doing this all year round?
Depression is not something trivial that everyone goes through from time to time – this perception belittles the intensity and severity of the real thing and only adds to the uphill struggle that sufferers of depression face in being taken seriously.
So please, by all means, be kinder to each other, spread a little joy wherever you can; help yourself if you’re feeling low by focusing on the positive in your life, exercising, eating well and getting outdoors. Be gentle with yourself if you’re feeling the January blues, but don’t buy into this pseudoscientific Blue Monday baloney, because doing so just gives it more credibility than it warrants.
It IS cold outside, and things may well seem a little dismal, but January also represents a fresh start: spring is coming and the year ahead is ripe with opportunities. And if you really want something to celebrate, I’d say that NOT being depressed is a great place to start!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Blue Monday. Did your company do anything ‘special’ to mark the day?