Wherever you are today, you’re likely at some point to hear this day referred to as ‘Blue Monday’, but the phrased commonly used to refer to the third Monday in January as ‘the most depressing day of the year’ is essentially a fabrication.
The term originated in 2005 when a vacation agency in the U.K. commissioned a former lecturer at Cardiff University to determine the most depressing day of the year to market winter vacations. The science behind the label has been widely refuted.
While ‘Blue Monday’, specifically, has been debunked as a myth, the ‘winter blues’ that come with the holidays passing and winter doldrums setting in are legitimate. Research in Ontario suggests 15 per cent of the population has experienced winter blues, which can include changes in appetite, lethargy and low mood. The winter blues are separate from seasonal affective disorder, which is a serious form of depression and affects about two per cent of the population.
People experiencing the winter blues can benefit from:
- Maximizing exposure to sunlight: spend more time outdoors during the day and arrange indoor environments to receive maximum sunlight. Trim tree branches that block light, for example, and keep curtains open during the day. Move furniture to sit near a window.
- Exercise: it relieves stress, builds energy and increases mental and physical well-being. Make a habit of taking a lunchtime walk. The activity and increased exposure to natural light can raise spirits.
- Healthy eating: maintaining a clean diet has been shown to benefit both mental and physical health.
For more information on winter blues, SAD and mental health, contact your local CMHA branch: https://ontario.cmha.ca/about-cmha/contact-us/