Blue Monday Survival Guide ft. 10 Science-backed Tips

Man who has fallen asleep on the sofa with a book over his face

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday is the supposedly most depressing day of the year – where January blues reach their peak. In 2023 the date falls on January 16th in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Whilst its origins are rooted in a 2005 idea for a PR stunt by Sky Travel, Blue Monday is still a great time for some extra focus on the mental health of yourself and those around you.

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Why does Blue Monday fall on the third Monday of January?

The third Monday of the year was chosen as the date of Blue Monday based on many factors.

Key Components of the Blue Monday Formula

  • Poor weather conditions and lack of sunlight 
  • Debt accumulated during Xmas and winter deals
  • The time since Christmas and distance remaining until pay day
  • The low motivation and productivity levels we tend to experience as New Year’s Resolutions fall by the wayside
  • The growing feeling of a need to take action

 

A blackboard filled with mathematical equations

 It’s a combination that certainly doesn’t sound like a formula for an uplifting start to the year. And one that could leave anyone feeling a bit low.


And 2023 is, of course, no ordinary year. Given recent events, debt level will be a heightened concern for many of us this January.

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Is Blue Monday really the most depressing day of the year?

Despite its growing prominence as a calendar date, Blue Monday isn’t actually backed by scientific research data. 

The True Origin of Blue Monday

Dr. Cliff Arnall developed the concept based on a brief from a PR firm representing the holiday company Sky Travel. Their plan was to identify the date people would be most likely to pay to book a winter holiday!

 

A plane flying through a blue sky with clouds

While it would be easy to dismiss the day as a simple PR stunt, Arnall did identify a number of relevant factors that are likely to influence our mental health and increase the likelihood of experiencing low mood at this time of year.

Singling out the third Monday of January as the most depressing day of the year is certainly pushing the bounds of credibility. But it evidently sounded good in a press release given how the concept has caught on since 2005.

The Happiest Day of the Year?

You might be interested to know that Arnall also identified the following dates as the happiest days of the year:

  • 24 June 2005
  • 23 June 2006
  • 20 June 2008
  • 18 June 2010

And yes, this was also for a press release – in this case for an ice cream company!

 

What can I do to feel better on such a depressing day?

Perhaps it won’t be on Blue Monday itself, but one day in January – as the time since Christmas begins to stretch out – you may find yourself feeling that the Xmas spirit has well and truly left the building. And perhaps that classic combination of ‘Blue Monday’ factors is soon rearing its head.

 

A person wearing cosy clothes cupping a hot drink in their hands

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An opportunity for positive action

If the Blue Monday formula is accurate, the feeling of a need to take action will soon be arriving too. This is an opportunity to turn our mind to more positive matters rather than dwelling on the areas we may feel we’re failing such as our new year’s resolutions! So here are some practical actions that can make a positive difference to your day.
 

Check your internal weather

Turn your focus away from the inclement January Weather conditions and instead look inward. Before you can take steps to boost your mood, it’s important to understand how you’re really feeling right now. Recognising and putting a label on our emotions can often be tricky and using the metaphor of ‘internal weather’ can really help to make this easier.

A rainbow breaking through clouds

Cultivate your sense of control

When we’re feeling overwhelmed, Stephen Covey’s ‘Sphere of Influence’ concept can be useful to turn to. By focusing on the things we can control or influence rather than the things we can’t control, we can improve our sense of personal agency and reduce feelings of helplessness.

The Christmas period can often lead to debt and money worries as we enter the new year. If debt is a source of anxiety, Citizens Advice has a lot of useful resources that can help you to take action.

 

Boost your dopamine and oxytocin levels

Oxytocin is a hormone (sometimes called the ‘love hormone’ that is associated with social bonding and feelings of safety. So if you’re feeling isolated or lonely, something that can help is using techniques that boost oxytocin levels, including:

  • Practicing self-kindness and self-compassion
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Resting and sleeping
  • Send a message expressing gratitude to people you know

Dopamine, on the other hand is a neurotransmitter associated with reward, pleasure and motivation. When we’re down and demotivated, dopamine boosting techniques can help us to overcome low motivational levels. For example:

  • Physical exercise, movement or dancing
  • Eating healthy foods that are high in protein and good fats
  • Trying something new
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Celebrating small victories

 

A graphic showing neurons of the brain

Get out and connect with your community

Finally, never underestimate the wellbeing benefits of simply getting outside. When we’re in a rut, a change of scenery can often shift our perspective or disrupt cycles of negativity. Seeking out events and human connection can also provide a big boost – you don’t have to do it all on your own!

What can I do to rekindle New Year’s Resolutions and make them stick?

The more time since Christmas, the greater the chance that we’ll find our resolutions wavering. This can be a recipe for low motivational levels. But it’s said that Blue Monday also comes with a feeling of a need to take action.

Our cheat list for Blue Monday Motivation

Let’s roll up our sleeves. Here’s our science-backed formula to help you get January life back on track

1. Reframe failing as learning

A growth mindset allows you to view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than a sign of inadequacy – fuelling self-development and boosting resilience.

2. Use Micro-goals

Breaking any larger goal into tiny steps helps it to feel less overwhelming and also provides a dopamine boost to spur you on every time you check one off the list!

Photo: climbing steps

3. Reward yourself

Rewards activate the brains dopamine pathway, creating feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment. This increases our desire to repeat behaviours and being able to anticipate a reward also raises self-motivation.

 

4. Tap into the Progress principle

Research by Teresa Amabile suggests that the experience of making progress is the strongest determinant of job satisfaction. This suggests that taking time to stop, acknowledge and celebrate small wins can really help to boost wellbeing by building a sense of personal momentum.

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Get access to the exclusive Haptivate Wellbeing Resource Hub and stay up to date with all the latest wellbeing at work research, tools and tips by joining our monthly newsletter. We promise not to share your data or spam you with irrelevant information 🙂

Wishing you the best of luck with your Blue Monday self-care!

James Pacey

James Pacey

Co-founder & Commercial Director, Haptivate

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