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Blue Monday: What’s it all about?

18 Dec 2023 • 1 min read

You’ve heard of the Sunday blues, but what about Blue Monday?

What is it? When is it? And what’s the purpose of it?

Well, you can stop wondering because we’ve gathered everything you need to know about Blue Monday, right here.

What is Blue Monday?

Let’s start off by announcing that the concept of Blue Monday is a myth! So, take a deep breath and relax those frown muscles as we unravel why this ‘depressing day’ came about and how you can turn it into something more positive.

In fact, this day was simply thought up in 2004 for a travel company. Cliff Arnal, a psychologist, came up with the concept when he created the January blues for Sky Travel, who them went on to use the concept as a PR stunt to promote their winter deals.1

The formula was based on the main factors that were most likely to contribute to low mood.

These are the factors in the calculation:

W = Weather

D = Debt

d = Monthly salary

T = Time since Christmas

Q = Time since failing our New Year’s resolutions

M = Low motivational levels

Na = The feeling of needing to take action

Blue Monday FAQs

When is Blue Monday?

The bluest day of the year takes place on the third Monday of January. In 2023, Blue Monday falls on the 16th of January. Why is it called Blue Monday? It’s called Blue Monday because it’s the time of year when we’re supposedly feeling at our lowest and most “blue”.

We’re thought to be susceptible to feeling down because the weather’s cold, we’re back at work, we’ve got to make up all the money we spent at Christmas and we’re feeling guilty for already breaking our New Year’s resolutions…oh, joy.2

Is it really blue?

Google “Blue Monday” and you’ll be presented with a whole list of articles that tell you when it is and how it’s been calculated, thanks to Cliff Arnall’s formula.

Scattered in between, you’ll also find lots of references to the phrase, “pseudosciene”-, which basically means it’s not scientifically true.

Blue Monday just so happens to have hung around in people’s minds and been used by companies for PR purposes ever since the phrase was first coined and the formula first unveiled back in 2004.

Ways to feel more positive

While Blue Monday hasn’t been scientifically proven, it can be difficult not to feel anything but blue on this day due to the widespread association with it.

Plus, the factors that have been used in Cliff’s Blue Monday calculation are real-life factors – the weather is typically gloomy in January, people do break their New Year’s Resolutions early on, motivation levels can be low, and there can be some Christmas debt to have to pay back, too.

The Mental Health Foundation states that we need to look after our mental health against commercial influences.3

Portrait of a man breathing fresh air in nature

You can feel less blue if you remember: 

  • It’s a myth – there are no scientific studies to say that Blue Monday is actually Blue Monday.4,5
  • We all have good and bad days – everybody’s situations are different, and it’s therefore impossible for all of us to feel exactly the same way on one particular day.4
  • It’s actually a good opportunity to check in on our mental health… – rather than automatically thinking you feel blue on Blue Monday, reflect on your mental wellbeing and continue to do it all -year round.
  • …and to talk things through with other people – this is really useful for protecting our mental health; sometimes, a problem shared can be a problem halved.5

4 ways to beat those blues:

  • Focus on the good things – that are happening in your life and try not to be dominated by things that may have gone wrong or aren’t going your way. 
  • Be grateful for what has happened – this will help you focus on the positive things taking place all around you – no matter how small. For example, you can be grateful for having a good night’s sleep, completing your work on time, your colleague helping you out, or your partner doing the shopping for you. 
  • Try to smile and laugh more – there’s no use forcing it – but studies have found that laughter can help relieve depression, stress, and anxiety.5 A simple laugh or smile, at ourselves or other people, can instantly lift our spirits. 
  • Use positive affirmations – try to start every day with a positive thought, saying, memory, or quote that sets you up for the best possible start. Don’t forget to keep reminding yourself of it throughout the day, too.

View our Stress & Anxiety Hub

The final say

At the end of the day, Blue Monday is a PR stunt based on generalisations.

But the “blue” factors in our lives are still real at this time.

If you’re struggling to cope, speak to your GP. The services below are also free and available 24/7 in the UK:

  • Call the Samaritans helpline on 116 123 
  • Text SHOUT to 85258 
  • For urgent medical advice, call the NHS on 111 
  • In an emergency, or if you or someone else is in danger, call 999

We’ve partnered with JAAQ, an innovative and interactive mental health platform where you can hear from over 60 world leading experts and people with lived experience on topics such as burnout, depression and anxiety in a way that has never been done before.