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  • Writer's pictureAlicia Guerrero

What is "Blue Monday"? Is it real? And if not...does it even matter?

Are you familiar with "Blue Monday"? It takes place on the third Monday of January each year (aka today, depending on when you're reading this), and has been identified as the "most depressing" day of the entire year. This is supposedly due to a whole host of reasons, including:

  • dramatically less socializing or connecting with friends and family compared to December

  • feeling frustrated with a lack of progress on those new resolutions

  • assessing recent debt that was incurred during the holidays

  • settling back into our normal (sometimes mundane) routines after exciting holiday plans

  • enduring weather that is likely cold, gloomy, stormy, and without much chance for sunlight or vitamin D

The phrase "Blue Monday" itself is relatively new after being created by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2004, at the request of a UK-based travel company. But the company was mostly motivated to inquire about "the most depressing day of the year" for advertising purposes, hoping to maximize their profits by marketing travel bookings as a possible remedy for folks feeling down on this day. In short- even though Arnall is believed to have used some type of actual formula to reveal the third Monday of January as the most depressing, much of the academic/scientific world has largely dismissed this as nothing more than an advertising gimmick.

Does that mean the concept is completely baseless though? After considering my own experience with clients and as a human myself, I'm not so sure.

The post-holiday blues are a pretty common phenomenon involving a general sadness that might wash over us after the fun and deliciousness of the holiday season have disappeared. Some people have a similar experience outside of the holiday time too, perhaps after that amazing vacation with friends, or musical festival season, etc. This is incredibly understandable, not only from the socializing and connection perspectives, but also because of the sudden decrease in "happy chemicals" (eg: endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin) that were likely flooding the brain during those fun times.

Alternatively, other folks may also be feeling down or depressed after the holidays because it was difficult or even traumatic due to triggering family dynamics. And considering last year's record-breaking inflation and unbearably high prices, it's not unrealistic to think that some people will be lamenting the amount of money spent during holiday time, especially if they felt pressured to travel AND buy presents for every member of large families.

So, conceptually, "Blue Monday" may not be entirely fictional. However, the idea that it culminates specifically on this third Monday of January, is less legitimate in my opinion. In fact, I would say it's not uncommon for these negative, depressive feelings to set in earlier on in January, especially during the second week based on anecdotal experience with clients. For some people, an emotional dip may even occur as soon as the night before their return trip home, in anticipation of returning back to our humdrum routines.

Where does that leave us then? Is Blue Monday real, or not? Maybe not... but what's most important to remember is that your feelings ARE real. So if you're feeling down or depressed as this year has begun (no matter what date this set in), for whatever reason...those feelings are valid. I see you, and I get it.

And if you are struggling with depressive thoughts right now, or any time after you've been riding the high's of other awesome events, vacations, etc., here are some tips to help move you through them!

Get something else on your calendar in the coming weeks

Whether it's a coffee date with a friend or taking yourself on a solo date to browse your favorite bookstore or finally check out that cute cat cafe, it's important to remind yourself that you WILL get to do fun stuff again, it's only a matter of time.

Reach out and connect with friends

Even if it's just via text or linking up with them during a video game you play together, connecting with friends during this time can do a lot to boost our mood. There's even a chance that they might be struggling with similar feelings themselves, and speaking with them about it may help normalize the phenomenon and remind us that we aren't alone in this.

Cuddle up to your pets

I cannot recommend this one enough! There's been a lot of research that's shown cuddling with our pets is a way to "hack" our brain's happy chemicals mentioned above- especially oxytocin, which is responsible for feelings of bonding, affection, and love. Boosting oxytocin also has positive physiological effects, including lowering our blood pressure and lessening the production of cortisol, our primary stress hormone.

Write it out, anywhere

If you notice these negative feelings are getting HEAVY inside of you- let's get them outside of you instead. It doesn't have to be in a journal, in any particular format, or even on lined paper. Just scribble them anywhere...and you can also destroy it later by shredding it, tearing it up into a million little pieces, or safely burning it as a symbolic way to stop the painful internalization of these feelings.

Finally, if you've tried these things or other coping skills but feel like the depressive symptoms seem to be lingering or intensifying, please also consider whether beginning therapy might be the next best option.

And if you're still not sure, feel free to contact me anytime for a free, 15-min consultation to answer any questions you may have. Above all else, please remember that you do not need to wade through this difficult time of year alone. I hear you, I see you, I get it.

-Wishing you peace and good health-

Alicia (with special appearance by Bruno, my own oxytocin booster!)

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