Ready for Blue Monday?

It's supposed to be the most depressing day of the year

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I don't like (Blue) Mondays: why it is a myth

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Garfield the cat, in many ways, is my spirit animal. The fat and lazy cat, created by cartoonist Jim Davis, loves lasagnas and hates Monday. I can sympathise with my feline friend there.

When I discovered that January 21 will mark 'Blue Monday', the alleged most depressing day of the year, I was left wondering why the other 51 Mondays in 2019 were not deserving of this dubious accolade.

'Blue Monday' is the name given to the third Monday in January. What makes January 21 more blue than the other Mondays, and indeed other days, of the year? It all started in 2005 when a travel company published a press release, containing an equation from a psychologist called Dr Cliff Arnall. It allegedly calculated the most depressing day of the year.

The equation looked something like this: (C x R x ZZ) / ((Tt+D) x St + (P x Pr) > 400. An updated equation released in 2009: (W + (D-d)) x T^Q / (M x N_a).

It was, of course, pseudoscience. The second equation calculated W as weather, D as debt, T as time since Christmas, Q as time since failing our New Year's resolutions. Like most pseudoscience, it looks the part - but it lacks the necessary evidence to back it up.

Arnall himself has admitted that you should "refute the whole notion" of Blue Monday, and be cheerful instead. He said the idea was "not particularly helpful" because it became "a self-fulfilling prophecy" and that achieving happiness and being less materialistic was a year-round aim.

The psychologist explained the origins of his calculation to the Daily Telegraph: "I was originally asked to come up with what I thought was the best day to book a summer holiday but when I started thinking about the motives for booking a holiday, reflecting on what thousands had told me during stress management or happiness workshops, there were these factors that pointed to the third Monday in January as being particularly depressing."

Dean Burnett, a doctor in neuroscience and the author of The Happy Brain, calls the claim "unscientific", "pseudoscientific", and "uberpseudoscientific". And to make his feelings abundantly clear, he writes in the Guardian: "It is gibberish, bilge, rubbish, crap, stupid, and any other polite way of saying "utter bollocks" that you can think of."

He also argues that the pseudoscience of Blue Monday is harmful to the public understanding of science and psychology, as well as being disrespectful to those who suffer from genuine depression. "[Blue Monday suggests] that it is temporary, minor and experienced by everyone, rather than what may be a chronic and incapacitating condition. People with clinical depression often face an uphill struggle being taken seriously, especially as "depression" is such a general term," Burnett argues.

The New European doesn't even give the "errant nonsense" any column inches. They spend one paragraph ridiculing Blue Monday, arguing it "holds no more water than ice cream manufacturer Wall’s insistence that the happiest day of the year falls on or around the third Friday in June". Instead, they dedicate the rest of the article to New Order's Blue Monday.

January 12 marks... Monday. Just like any other Monday in the year, with its ups and downs. It might be blue, it might be red. And like Garfield, I will treat it like all starts to the week: with utter disdain.

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