A case of the Mondays can always get you down, but this day in particular is the saddest of them all.
Blue Monday, which this year falls on January 21, is the most depressing date on the calendar, according a strange tradition with even more unusual origins. Here’s what you need to know about the bummer of a holiday and how to beat all that impending gloom.
What is Blue Monday?
Dr. Cliff Arnall, a U.K.-based psychologist, coined the term “Blue Monday” 14 years ago to describe the third Monday in January, which he claims is the saddest day of the year. According to the BBC, to come up with the date, Arnall used an equation that took into account the weather, the average amount of debt a person has after the holidays coupled with their ability to pay it off, the time that’s elapsed since Christmas, people’s average levels of motivation, having to return to work, and how long it took people to break their New Year’s Resolutions.
Fortune reports that Arnall even shared his algorithm for calculating the miserable day, x Tq ÷ , with “W” representing weather, “D” meaning debt, “d” representing monthly income, “T” is time since the holiday season, and “q” is the time period since everyone has broken their New Year’s resolutions. “M” represents levels of motivation, and “Na” stands for the need for people to take action. How one uses the algorithm is still unclear.
Why is it Controversial?
The biggest flaw in Arnall’s theory, is the fact that he was commissioned to pick out a saddest day of the year for an ad campaign for the British vacation company Sky Travel, according to an article in Coastal Living. This has led many to say that the “holiday” is nothing more than an opportunity for companies to promote products and experiences that counteract the winter blues, like booking a vacation.
Others criticize the fact that Arnall doesn’t take into account where in the world people are located, and the fact that there is little scientific data to back up his equation. Fortune writes that in order to complete a factually accurate equation like this, you would need to survey a large group of people and measure the contributing factors every single day of the year, which Arnall does not appear to have done.
While Blue Monday may be mostly a myth, seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs this time of year, is very real. And January’s weather, combined with longer nights and shorter days in the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t do much to help combat it.
WATCH THIS: Does Your Significant Other Have Seasonal Affective Disorder? Here’s What You Should Know
Can You Skip It?
Yes! While the term has become relatively widespread, even Arnall has distanced himself from the day. In 2018, he apologized for all of the negative connotations that came along with Blue Monday, telling The Independent that it “was never my intention” to make it sound like a bad day.
“Whether embarking on a new career, meeting new friends, taking up a new hobby or booking a new adventure, January is actually a great time to make those big decisions for the year ahead,” Arnall said.
Instead of spending the day wallowing in your sorrows, there are ways to help you feel better during these winter months, such as planning a trip (Blue Monday’s original aim) or giving your home a refresh in preparation for spring.