The third Monday in January — that would be today — is supposed to be the most miserable day of the year. By this day — aka “Blue Monday” — holiday cheer has resolutely faded, resolutions have failed and the several more months of winter ahead just really begin to depress the hell out of us.
According to whom? The Guardian says “pseudoscience” is behind the Blue Monday myth. It’s true winter’s dark days and other factors can contribute to gloomy moods, but there’s nothing to note that the third Monday of January is singularly depressing.
This silly claim comes from a ludicrous equation that calculates “debt”, “motivation”, “weather”, “need to take action” and other arbitrary variables that are impossible to quantify and largely incompatible.
… But that doesn’t stop the equation from popping up every year. Its creator, Dr Cliff Arnall, devised it for a travel firm. He has since admitted that it is meaningless (without actually saying it’s wrong).
The Blue Monday myth gets passed on from year to year, however, in email forwards and media (from the marginal to the mainstream), perhaps because it’s plausible or perhaps just because it makes a good story.
Cognitive therapist Dan Roberts said he “despairs” stories like this, however, because they can do damage to the way people actually understand depression:
“It’s important to distinguish between feeling a bit glum (as we all might do on a grey winter’s day) from genuine depression, which can be a serious, extremely debilitating condition … if you want to understand the cause of real depression, it’s not a hefty credit card bill, but a triggering of negative beliefs about yourself, your experiences and the future (what Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive therapy, called the “cognitive triad” of depression) … In short, the most depressing thing about Blue Monday is that it’s a load of cobblers.”