1/ What is Blue Monday?
Blue Monday is initially a marketing concept invented in 2005 by a British communication agency, in order to sell plane tickets! A \“study\” had then been commissioned to a psychologist who invented this pseudo mathematical formula to find the most depressing day of the year.
This formula takes into account, among other things, the weather (W, weather), debts incurred to pay for Christmas presents (D, debt), the time elapsed since the happy Christmas period (T, time), the time elapsed since our New Year’s resolutions, which have often already been largely forgotten (Q), or even lack of motivation (M).
This calculation was made on the basis of the following principles (and these principles turn out to be quite correct):
Monday is our least favourite day
After mid-January, the holiday season is behind us
We still have Christmas debts to pay off and January’s paycheck is still a long way off
The days are still short, it gets dark quickly, there is little light and the weather is not good
It is a period without holidays, and we are often tired tired from the festive season; a lot of germs are also around (flu, rhinopharyngitis, gastroenteritis are often rife in January)
We put on weight during the holidays, and the good resolutions are already just a faint memory by then…
Of course, we should not be fooled by this purely marketing concept.
Nevertheless, even if Blue Monday was initially a publicity stunt, it is true that the months of January (and November) see an upsurge in depressive syndromes, sleep disorders, as well as an increase in appointments in psychotherapy offices.
In 2013, a consultancy that helps companies combat absenteeism, FirstCare, also found, through a study it conducted, that the peak in absences from work occurred on precisely on that third Monday in January. Another study allegedly noted an upsurge in negative sentiment on Twitter in the third week of the year.
2/ Sad but not depressing
ﾂThese 2 terms are not to be confused. We can agree that this time of year is a fairly difficult time for everyone, for the reasons mentioned above. However, there is a difference between experiencing Blue Monday symptoms and a real depression, known at this time of year as seasonal depression. The symptoms of Blue Monday are temporary, over a few days, and do not prevent you from having a good time during the day. We may feel a little blue but this does not prevent us from being active in our daily lives (work, family, friends, etc.).
SAD, on the other hand, is a real form of depression, linked in part to the lack of natural light in winter, and which affects women more often. SAD is understood as a seasonal depression that occurs at least two years in a row, without any other clear triggering factor (such as bereavement, divorce, job loss, illness), at the same time of year (winter) and whose symptoms last until the following spring. Some countries, such as Canada, are of course more affected by this phenomenon. In Europe, between 1.3 and 4.6% of the population is affected, and 80% of those affected are women.
The main cause is the lack of light during this period. This is because light signals play a role in the secretion of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, which are involved in regulating mood and sleep. The hormonal disruption caused by this lack of light can be significant enough to cause symptoms of depression. Countries further away from the Equator are therefore more at risk.
The symptoms of this type of depression are the same as a classic form of depression: A sad mood present every day all day long, a state of chronic fatigue, a lack of initiative, a drop in libido, a drop in productivity, weight gain, a general slowdown. They disappear spontaneously and gradually with the arrival of spring.
3/ What to do?
ﾂWhen it comes to Blue Monday, it is possible to prepare for it and anticipate this somewhat difficult post-holiday moment.
- Don’t forget to think positive! Stimulating this type of thinking through positive psychology really does have an impact on long-term dark thoughts. Apps such as My Sherpa, based on CBT and positive psychology, can help with this.
A little tip to adopt from Monday 18 January:
Each week, starting with that famous third week of January, write down on a piece of paper a cool moment from the past week. Fold the paper and put it in a jar. Do this every week of the year. One year from now, on the next Blue Monday, Monday 17 January 2022, open your jar and read your 52 papers, it will cheer you up and show you what a great year you’ve had!
- Try to eat a balanced diet, avoid junk food during this time and focus on seasonal vegetables.
- Cover up well and get some physical exercise such as walking or running outside. Favour activities that take place outside, even if it is cold!
- Get off social media for a bit during this time and focus on real face-to-face discussions! Get out, see friends, plan your weekends in advance. Just because it’s cold and getting dark early doesn’t mean you have to hibernate, on the contrary, this is the time to get out and relax, favouring outdoor spaces like heated terraces.
- Cocoon intelligently: with friends or family in front of a good movie, taking care of yourself (detox mask, massage, hot bath…)
- And remember that we’re getting closer to the happiest day of the year, set for the third Friday in June 😉
When it comes to SAD, if you really think you are suffering from this form of recurrent depression then it is essential to prepare for the winter period and to be diligent, because these symptoms are not a fatality and can be avoided.
Here are the different preventive measures to put in place from October onwards:
- Natural light baths: open your shutters early, as soon as you wake up. Put up mirrors, favour light colours in your home, go out for fresh air at least one hour a day even on a grey day.
- Light therapy: it is preferable to seek the advice of a doctor but be aware that there are light therapy lamps on the market whose effectiveness has been proven on melatonin secretion. Check when buying that the intensity of the lamp is at least 10000 lux.
These lamps that reproduce natural light and stimulate the secretion of neurotransmitters involved in seasonal depression are to be used regularly throughout the autumn winter period according to the rule of 3: 30 minutes a day, as soon as you get up, placed 30 cms from the lamp, for 3 weeks in a row, then get a 3 weeks break.
- Adapted diet: consumption of fish and seafood, rich in Omega−3 fatty acids which seem to be counteracting the symptoms of depression. Consumption of protein foods such as turkey or green vegetables, which restore energy. If these preventive measures remain insufficient, better to consult a general practitioner or psychiatrist who can prescribe appropriate treatments such as mild anti-depressants based on melatonin.
There you have it, I hope you are now better equipped to go through this period of the year – certainly not a very pleasant one, but only temporary. And remember, spring is coming!
\“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present. \”