Today is Blue Monday, the “most depressing day of the year”.
The third Monday of January typically brings chilly weather, mounting debts and failed New Year’s resolutions.
Rumour has it the concept was thought up by a PR company, and many experts dismiss the idea that one day of the year can affect our mood more than any other.
“There is no ‘science’ behind the idea of Blue Monday and it is entirely normal to feel a bit down about getting back to work after the Christmas break,” Dr Meg Arroll, chartered psychologist at Healthspan, told Yahoo UK.
And yet the idea may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Because we talk about this being the most depressing day of the year, it might in fact be we’re primed to feel rotten on this date,” Dr Arroll said.
“Our expectations are key in our lived experience, so if you expect to feel terrible on Blue Monday you most probably will.”
Blue Monday aside, many suffer from a low mood at the start of the year.
“January in general includes a set of elements that may lead us to feeling down – bad weather, the tensions and anti-climax of Christmas and New Year, getting back to work, reflecting on unmet resolutions, debt,” Dr Arroll said.
How to feel brighter this Blue Monday
Depression is a recognised medical condition, with multiple treatments available.
For those just feeling down in the dumps, simple tweaks can make things seem a little brighter.
“By switching our mindset to a positive position we can even experience the weather as beneficial,” Dr Arroll said.
“For example, freezing on your train platform in the dark mornings is burning off some of those indulgent Christmas pounds.
“Or use the bad weather as an excuse to have some self-care time to yourself.”
Rather than letting the January blues drag you down, focus on the positives.
“You can use a gratitude diary or simply think of three things you’re grateful for every day,” Dr Arroll said.
“These needn’t be life-changing events, just a particularly nice cup of coffee.”
While dark evenings may leave you tempted to huddle inside, try to stick to your normal routine.
“It is important to push yourself to be proactive, plan your days and maintain a structure at this time,” Dr Paul McLaren, medical director at Priory Hayes Grove, told Yahoo UK.
Looking after your health in general may also improve your mood.
“As easy as it can be to reach for an unhealthy meal or snack, these foods can leave you tired and lethargic,” Dr McLaren said.
“If you overeat on unhealthy foods when you are low, this may give you a momentary feeling of pleasure, but will only be fleeting and likely leave you feeling guilty afterwards.
“Take care of yourself by eating meals rich in folic acid, such as avocado and spinach, as well as those high in omega-3 acids, like salmon and tuna.”
While the gloomy weather makes the indoors particularly appealing, exercising outside can be a mood boost.
“Exercise releases endorphins, ‘feel-good’ chemicals, which can help you feel calmer and happier,” Dr McLaren said.
“What’s more, exercising outdoors in natural light can give you an additional boost of endorphins and help you get a good night’s sleep.
“You could go for a walk at lunchtime, get off your bus a few stops earlier or play your favourite sport with your friends.”
Acknowledging feelings of sadness could also help combat the issue.
“Listen to your emotions,” Dr McLaren said.
“Rather than ignoring how you feel, make a ‘problem list’ where you write down all the things causing you to feel low and tackle them one at a time.
“For each problem, write down a solution and outline the benefit of working through the issue to give you the motivation to do so.”
When life seems tough, remember a problem shared can be a problem halved.
“Make time to speak someone you’re close to, whether it is a partner, friend, family member or colleague,” Dr McLaren said.
While it’s normal to feel down every now and again, persistent unhappiness can be a sign of depression, according to the NHS.
“If you are in a depressive illness, every day can feel bleak, dark and hopelessness,” Dr McLaren said.
See your GP if you are concerned your low mood is serious.
The NHS has more information.