The Myth of Blue Monday

Leah Kuntz

Is the purported “saddest day of the year” evidence-based?

No scientific studies support the claim that Blue Monday, the third Monday of January, is the saddest day of the year. Where did this myth come from?

In 2005, Cliff Arnal, a Welsh psychologist, came up with a formula for the most depressing day of the year to use for a holiday travel company, Sky Travel. Factors included weather conditions, debt levels, time passed since Christmas, low motivation levels, and failing New Year’s resolutions. However, this seemingly harmless marketing tactic meant to sell summer vacations grew far beyond its original purpose. Unfortunately, it became, as Arnal dubbed it, “a self-fulfilling prophecy.”1

Now, Dr Arnal has changed his tune drastically, apologizing for his formula, and even calling himself an “Activist to #StopBlueMonday” in his Twitter bio.

“These types of formulae, if anything, probably serve to oversimplify the complexities of real-life experience,” an anonymous spokesperson related to NBC News.2

While it may not be scientifically proven, Dr Arnal’s idea of a gloomy post-holiday low point may carry some weight. Shorter days and cold temperatures can negatively affect mood and lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).3 In the UK, up to a third of the population experiences SAD.2 Wintertime body changes can affect hormones, sleeping habits, eating habits, and mood.4

Blue Monday may have caused an extra sense of dread to hang around January, especially for patients with depression and anxiety. They may feel pressure to overcome this particular sad holiday.1 To combat this pressure, AXA PPP Health came up with 7 ways to help boost morale and motivation.5

-Set goals

-Improve your work environment

-Identify the reason behind any lack of motivation

-Make lists and plan workloads

-Say no if overwhelmed

-Get adequate sleep

-Stay active

These simple strategies may help you or your patients stay positive not just on Blue Monday, but for all of the winter months.

References

1. Cohut M. The truth about ‘Blue Monday.’ Medical News Today. January 21, 2019. Accessed January 18, 2021. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324236

2. Carlile J. Jan. 24 called worst day of the year. NBC News. January 21, 2005. Accessed January 18, 2021. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna6847012#.XEW54M_7SqA

3. Katz D. Blue Monday isn’t real but winter’s impact on your mood can be. 10 News. Updated January 20, 2020. Accessed January 18, 2021. https://www.wbir.com/article/news/health/blue-monday-isnt-real-but-winters-impact-on-your-mood-can-be/51-5351a7e7-50fc-4987-a004-73ddb3d27a7c

4. What does Blue Monday mean for our mental health? Mental Health Foundation. January 6, 2021. Accessed January 18, 2021. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/what-does-blue-monday-mean-our-mental-health

5. Dorsey K. Seven ways fed-up workers can beat Blue Monday. Insider UK. January 12, 2018. Accessed January 18, 2021. https://www.insider.co.uk/news/blue-monday-2018-january-15-11840132