The media tells us that ‘Blue Monday’, the third Monday of January, is the most depressing day of the year. The fact that this was originally proposed and popularised by a travel company back in 2005 causes me to take this idea with a pinch of salt. They even used an equation to calculate it and give it some pseudo scientific validity.
Some people do get SAD during winter, with the reduced amount of sunlight. Mondays are the start of the working week. Christmas is over and you’ve just realised you’re not going to get value from your new gym membership. The media likes sound bites and relishes bogus science.
Depression does not happen to a schedule. I have no problem with the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ if it helps people pay attention to mental health and those who are depressed, even if the concept is bogus. Unfortunately the focus is on ‘cheering up’ as if there was something wrong with being depressed.
Being depressed is often a message that there are things we might need to attend to in our lives. If you spend your time avoiding the feeling and cheering yourself up, then you miss the message. Sometimes it’s appropriate to feel depressed and sad for a long time – after losing a life partner, for example. It may take years to process those feelings. The danger is that we reject our sadness and depression and so get stuck in it, as we do not allow ourselves to feel what we need to. Most GPs will give you a pill to make it go away if you ask, but this also stops the processing of the emotions.
I will not pretend I like feeling low or depressed myself. When it occurs I try to accept it as best I can and treat myself gently. Sometimes I can’t tell what triggered it, sometimes it’s more obvious what it’s about. I count myself fortunate that it passes quickly when it occurs, and is infrequent.
Depression is complex and individual. For some people it is a constant part of their lives that they have to manage and that is very hard. I believe it is a necessary part of everyone’s life at some point, sometimes for a considerable time. That’s part of being human. Difficulty arises when we get stuck in it.
So I’m not against Blue Monday as an idea, in the same way I have no problem with the concept of the moon being made of cheese. My issue is with the modern preoccupation with feeling happy all the time.
It’s winter, cold and dark, with spring still far away. Take the cycle of the year as an example of your process. After darkness will come new life, warmth and light, before once more there is decay. All other things being equal, feeling a little low at this time of year is quite appropriate. It may be necessary to allow those feelings and to grieve last year as a healthy way of moving into the new energy spring will bring.