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Blue Monday 2017: a useful date for organisations?

Published 16th January 2017 by Melissa Farrington
Depressed man with his head in his hands.

What is Blue Monday?

Blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year, according to Professor Cliff Arnall, a Cardiff University psychologist commissioned by a travel company in 2005 to work out on which day of the year we were most likely to be depressed.

Blue Monday 2017: when is it?

It’s the third Monday in January, so Blue Monday 2017 is January 16th. In 2016 it was January 18th, while in 2015 it was January 19th.

Some say it’s the second or fourth Monday in January, or the Monday of the final full week in January, but these are the minority view.

Blue Monday science: is there any evidence?

No, it’s considered pseudoscience.

Cliff Arnall highlighted debt levels and people giving up on New Year’s Resolutions as evidence, but there is no proof that we are more depressed on Blue Monday than any other day.

Depression and sadness are emotions unique to individuals, so it’s extremely difficult - if not impossible - to say that one day will be more depressing than others.

Blue Monday at work: what can we do?

If it’s pseudoscience, it’s best to ignore it, right?

Actually, Blue Monday presents a great opportunity to take action because mental health will be at the forefront of people’s minds.

Initiatives have more chance of succeeding when they have a strong impetus: add in sustained communication to maintain this impetus and they’re even more likely to succeed.

What can employers do to recognise Blue Monday?

  • Fight the misconception. The concept of a day being the ‘most depressing’ characterises depression as fleeting, rather than a chronic condition. This is dangerous. Use Blue Monday to launch a campaign around depression and try to kill the mental health stigma in your organisation.

  • Teach people to fight back. There are many ways to ward off depression or help tackle it, including regular exercise, mindfulness, social contact and volunteering. Make one your focus in 2017 and launch a communications campaign, kicking off on Blue Monday, along with regular activities.

  • Launch an education programme. Lots of things contribute to poor mental health, such as financial pressures, lack of work/life balance or lack of a strong social group. Bring in an external speaker to help staff get on top of one of these areas. The aim is to convince them logically and emotionally, then give them easy practical next steps to take.

What can employees do on Blue Monday?

It’s a great time of year to evaluate how you can improve your life for the year ahead.

  • Time management: can you reduce stress and anxiety by better managing your workload, for example by starting projects earlier or using a more effective to-do system?
  • Finances: is it time to maintain a budget and get on top of your finances? Money worries can seep into every area of your life, making it hard to sleep, relax and generally ‘switch off.’ Small changes compound over time: stop buying that daily coffee and you’ll pocket over £600 a year.
  • Boost purpose and pleasure: evidence suggests volunteering delivers both maximum purpose and maximum pleasure, both of which can help tackle depression.

Finally, if you are depressed and nothing has worked, maybe it’s time to try something new. For those who are depressed and haven’t told anyone, it’s time to take that first step. Contact Mind, or confide in a friend.

That way, by Blue Monday 2018, you’ll be feeling better.