Blue Monday: How to Conquer The “Saddest Day” of the Year

16 Jan ‘23
4 min
Stress and anxiety
Annemarie Andre
Gecontroleerd door Psychologist Marina Pacini
Today is the most depressing day of the year. At least according to the psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall. But is Blue Monday really a thing and is it possible to be in a good mood regardless?


In this article, you’ll learn more about the origins of Blue Monday. We’ll also share with you some mood-boosting tips from our psychologist Marina Pacini.


Where does Blue Monday come from?


Blue Monday first came to life in 2005 and has occurred every year since the third Monday in January. The formula for this was developed by psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall, who set out to determine the most depressing day of the year. Some of the variables he took into consideration were: W for weather, D for debt, T for time (as in the number of days after Christmas) and M for motivation. That doesn’t sound too science-based, right?  


Well, that’s because it’s not. Since its establishment, many academics have spoken out against this pseudoscientific formula and the media hype that surrounds Blue Monday each year. Even inventor Cliff Arnall has expressed some critical views on the subject. So, what inspired him to produce this formula? 


Originally, lurking behind the concept of Blue Monday was the British travel company Sky Travel. In a press release, they wanted to point to January as being a particularly dreary time – and, of course, encourage people to book holidays. It was a PR stunt, which apparently hasn’t lost its potency over the years.


💡Learn more: 14 Books to Change Your Mindset (As Recommended by Psychologists)


Why we’re actually in a bad mood


The formula may be nonsense, but there’s no denying that the grey winter months take a toll on some people’s moods. As many as 10% of people in the United States suffer from seasonal depression. Many people complain of mood swings or feelings of lethargy during the cool autumn and winter months.


Psychologist Marina Pacini also sees that the time after Christmas and the New Year is stressful for many people. Generally speaking, New Year is associated with many expectations in various areas of our lives,” she says. Although meaningful resolutions can be a really healthy and useful way to guide our lives, we tend to idolise the final result, instead of concentrating on the process and the daily progress we make towards these resolutions.” 


Along with expectations, nostalgia is also to blame for our bad moods. The holidays are generally a time that we look forward to as soon as the winter season begins.” Marina continues: For many people, it’s a happy time that we spend with our loved ones and it passes in a flash.” It’s natural that we don’t like returning to normal.


📚 Further reading: How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Part of Your Daily Life


Tips for feeling happy on Blue Monday


How can you improve your mood, not just on Blue Monday, but through all the grey winter months? Read on for some tips from our psychologist, Marina.


1. Be physically active


Over the festive season, many of us transform into true couch potatoes. The masses of biscuits and mulled wine that we consume in December tempt us into bad habits. Try to slowly build up your fitness after Christmas and get your body moving. 


One of the best ways to motivate yourself and boost your energy is movement,” says Maria before continuing, Being physically active is one of the best evidence-based recommendations for people with depressive moods.” So, get going: start tonight, even if it’s just a short walk.


2. Get out in the daylight


During the winter months, many people struggle with there being fewer hours of daylight. Wherever possible, try to get out during the day and take in as much daylight as you can. For example, you could pop out between meetings, instead of nipping to the coffee machine or organise your workday differently.


3. Eat healthily (again)


Whether it’s Christmas parties with your colleagues or festive meals with your family: in December, we often don’t eat particularly healthily. Try to get back into your old routine and eat a balanced diet. According to Maria, that will all help you “to get back a bit more self-confidence and feel in control of your life.”


4. Share your experiences with others


It helps to speak to other people and build deep connections. Revive an old friendship or plan something with your friends. You can talk about your challenges related to the New Year or simply spend some quality time laughing and unwinding together.


5. Establish a healthy habit


Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? If not, let psychologist Marina Pacini inspire you: “The New Year can be a good nudge to take up a new habit, like journaling or meditation.” You should try not to be too strict with yourself. Remember: the journey is the destination!


Are you finding it hard to begin alone? Then kickstart your new healthy habit with OpenUp. Through our Spaces to OpenUp, you can sign up for our meditation sessions for beginners, group sessions and masterclasses. For a mindful start to 2023!