What is Blue Monday and why it's 'a load of rubbish'

Charities are encouraging people to take part in "Brew Monday" and reach out to friends and family.

Today (January 17th) marks Blue Monday, supposedly the most difficult day of the year, but a suicide prevention charity says feeling low can happen on any day of the year and that we need to be aware of how the pandemic is increasing those feelings amongst many of us.

What is Blue Monday?

'Blue Monday' is the name given to the third Monday in January and is supposedly the saddest or most depressing day of the year.

The name was reportedly coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2005 when he was asked by UK travel company, Sky Travel to calculate a scientific equation for the 'January blues'.

Scientists have looked at the reasoning of the date, looking at factors including the distance from Christmas, the cold weather, Christmas debt and people failing their New Year's resolutions.

But, researchers have concluded that the idea that there can be one singular most depressing day for everyone is simply untrue.

What do the experts say?

Suicide prevention charity, Samaritans Cymru recognises that on top of the usual 'January blues', pandemic uncertainties continue.

It's now encouraging people to get their mugs out and share a drink with a friend, neighbour or colleague who may be struggling to cope.

It also said that despite the fact that winter is one of the harder seasons with dark days and frosty nights, Samaritans volunteers hear similar concerns all year round from those that contact the charity. The main concerns include mental health and illness, family and loneliness.

Samaritans Ambassador Dame Julie Walters thinks people can really make a difference to someone's day just by asking if they are OK.

She said: "People go through a range of emotions throughout the year so the idea of feeling blue on one day is a load of rubbish.

"I've had my fair share of blue days and have found solace in speaking to loved ones over a glass of something or two.

"It is a simple action that can go a long way, particularly now when so many people continue to feel isolated and lonely. It doesn't have to be Monday, or a cuppa, connecting with someone at any time during the year shows them you are there and ready to listen."

Artists who have experience of mental health struggles, including Cardiff-based Nathan Wyburn who found fame on Britain's Got Talent have also created uplifting illustrations that share a message of connection with others over a cup of something and a catch up.

Nathan Wyburn has had his own mental health struggles and anxiety but he credits the power of talking in his recovery.

Nathan is known for creating art with food and has created a portrait showing two people connecting, made with coffee and biscuits.

He said: "Having suffered with anxiety, panic attacks and bouts of depression for many years, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to do anything in those moments, let alone talk - but take it from me, once you open up about how you're feeling, it can be life-changing.

"I'm so proud to be supporting Brew Monday and really hope my coffee art catches someone's eye and makes them think to pick up the phone to a friend.

"You never know just how much a simple conversation could help someone."

Things you can do if you're having a difficult day

  • Meditate

Mindfulness meditation has a number of positive health benefits, including improving your immune system function and reducing stress and anxiety. 

All you need to do is find somewhere quiet and relaxing, and dedicate a minimum of 15 minutes to freeing your mind of thoughts.

  • Read

For those who stare at screens all day, your brain can start to feel tired and lacking in creativity. Reading can help reactivate your brain, improve your concentration and can also help you relax.

  • Socialise

With remote working a permanent part of many peoples lives, socially interacting with work colleagues or friends can be hard. But social interaction is extremely important for keeping your brain energised and educated. 

  • Physical exercise

Physical exercise is proven to have a positive effect on your mental health, providing more oxygen-rich blood to your brain, giving you greater mental stimulation.

Even a small amount of exercise, whether it be a few minutes walking, jogging or a few stretches, will help to stabilise your mood and increase focus and attention.

  • Breathing techniques

Deep breathing will help you focus and feel energised throughout your day. Sit or lie in a comfortable position, keeping your legs and spine straight and place one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest.

Then inhale slowly and deeply through your nose and into your abdomen, until your lungs are full.  Pause for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through the mouth, making a quiet whooshing sound, until your lungs are empty. Repeat the process until you start to feel calmer.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch