Let’s Talk about Blue Monday

I joined a few work colleagues for lunch yesterday and, among a number of conversations, we discussed the weather. It’s been really cold in Toronto, with a lot of grey skies and falling snow. I told them I’m excited that the forecast for Friday is a temperature above freezing and sunshine. We all agreed that we can handle the frigid weather, but the lack of sunshine has been hard.  It’s January, deep into the Canadian winter, which makes me think about the concept of Blue Monday.

Is it real or is this simply a phenomenon created by our capitalist society to get us to spend big money on sun vacations in the winter? As I read yesterday, the concept of Blue Monday was actually created back in 2005 in the United Kingdom to do just that – sell travel vacations. Many corporations have since latched on to the term purely for promotional purposes.

But society as a whole, or least societies that experience a harsh winter, have embraced this too. From what I have read, the third Monday in January is the day every year that it all comes together – the misery of cold and dark, post-holiday bills to pay and for some, a reminder of New Year’s resolutions.

There is no clear evidence backing up Blue Monday, in particular one day of the year that makes us all feel just blah all day. But I believe that January, in particular mid to late January, can be a challenge emotionally for many of us.

While I am not affected by big spending in December as I don’t celebrate Christmas, and I am definitely not one for New Year’s resolutions, I am affected by dreary dark and cold weather. And as I think about it, while I don’t make resolutions at the beginning of the year, my behaviour and actions are definitely influenced by the start of a new year.

By mid to late January, if things are not going my way, and if every day I wake up in darkness and trudge outside in my heavy coat and clunky boots, no doubt I am affected and feel blue. Lately my anger can be ignited more easily and I am definitely not handling stressful situations as well as I may in July.

I will admit that not all of this can be blamed on Blue Monday, as life has thrown me a few curveballs recently. But I am sure the time of year plays a role. I want to put aside the promotional aspect of Blue Monday and encourage everyone to talk about any funk you may be in. Mental health should no longer be something we sweep under the rug and ignore. It’s real, and I think many Canadians, deep in the winter, as we spend more time inside, behind closed doors, have a hard time coping.

We may not be able to do away with Blue Monday, but I think we can all find some coping mechanisms. For me, I try to relax and find a few moments every day that are just for me. I am not good at that. It can be a 30-minute TV show, a few pages of my book, a few seconds of utter silence, or on the weekend, a day at the ski hill.

And we can talk and write about Blue Monday and accept that many of our friends and family may be suffering from the blues or blahs right now. We can be there for each other and find ways to enjoy the dark and cold days of winter. Before you know it, spring will be here, with longer days, warm sunshine and budding trees.

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