‘Most depressing day’ can be used to talk about mental health
There seems to be a National Day for everything. There is always a national food to celebrate, or an awareness day to observe. For instance, this month alone, we could observe National Kiss A Ginger Day on January 12, National Winnie The Pooh Day on January 18, and National Peanut Butter Day on January. 24
Whilst some of these national days pass by relatively unnoticed, others hold increased social relevance and pique public interest. Blue Monday is one of those days.
Blue Monday, considered to be the most ‘depressing’ day of the calendar year, falls on the third Monday of January. In 2022, this will be Monday, January 17.
Many people would argue that there is not much to love about January. Our motivation levels are low, the weather is cold and damp, and our wallets are feeling the financial ramifications of the festive season. These factors, among others, seem to have intensified by the third week of January, so much so that our energy levels and emotional batteries are at their all-time low on Blue Monday.
Some raise an eyebrow at the legitimacy of Blue Monday, regarding this date with a healthy dose of Irish cynicism. Surely Blue Monday is no more depressing than any other day in January? Others see the day as a PR stunt: an opportunity for brands to push their self-care product lines and self-improvement agendas.
Experts also make the excellent point that we should be discussing mental health symptoms and diagnoses throughout the entire calendar year. These important issues should not be tokenised or commercialised for one day only.
While gloomy winter weather and post-Christmas debt serve as helpful catalysts for conversation, inviting us to further reflect on mental health issues, we should not stop engaging in these valuable discussions upon the arrival of spring.
However — limitations of Blue Monday aside — what would it mean if we used this day as an opportunity to have meaningful conversations about our mental and emotional health?
Last year, the well-known charity Samaritans attempted to do just that. The organisation decided to re-brand ‘Blue’ Monday as ‘Brew’ Monday, encouraging people to connect with others over a cup of tea. This is a heart-warming idea that could easily be replicated in offices, community groups, and staff rooms across the country.
Admittedly, the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that Blue Monday now harnesses a more complex and nuanced meaning. Many of us may be isolating, therefore feeling particularly lonely this year. With Blue Monday fast approaching, we may already be considering how we could make this day less ‘blue’ for friends, neighbours or family members in isolation. This could mean delivering them a seasonal bunch of flowers, organising their grocery shop, or arranging a phone call to boost their mood.
Equally, it is difficult to boost morale on Blue Monday in a virtual workplace. When people cannot be physically together in the workplace, additional effort must be made to ensure that individuals feel like included and valued members of the team.
Last year, we saw how organisations were creative and agile in addressing these challenges. Examples included: virtual team breakfast meetings, online yoga sessions, and 10 minute check-ins via Teams. Even simple gestures, like sending someone an encouraging email, were highly appreciated.
For those who feel like Blue Monday somewhat trivialises mental health and wellbeing, it could be helpful to think of this day as a fundamental part of broader mental health awareness campaigns. Last year, many organisations hosted lunchtime workshops and seminars, inviting keynote speakers and medical professionals to talk to staff about topics like depression, anxiety, resilience and burnout. These workshops, then, became a crucial part of further conversations about mental health management and practices in workplace contexts.
As individuals, we should all start thinking about how to spend Blue Monday. Many of us already know that being in nature has a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing. We could use this day as an opportunity to get outdoors, and explore a local green space or park.
Blue Monday also presents an opportunity to celebrate our loved ones, and to connect with others in a meaningful way. Think about an activity you could do with a friend, like catching up over coffee or watching a film.
Of course, for many people, low moods or symptoms of anxiety and depression may persist far beyond Blue Monday. In this case, it is vital to seek professional help and to speak to a GP or medical professional. Blue Monday is a day which encourages open, honest conversations, and for some, this could mean asking for professional help or seeking the necessary support.
Clearly, Blue Monday is one day in the calendar year. Critical conversations and action regarding mental health and wellbeing should endure much longer than a short 24-hour window. Instead of thinking about how to ‘beat’ or ‘banish’ Blue Monday, we could therefore begin to start thinking about how to brighten it.
How you could contribute when you see Blue Monday posts trending on social media next week. How could you prioritise your own mental health? How could you lift someone else’s mood? Together, we can turn Blue Monday on its head.