Tag Archives: Blue Monday

Celebrate Blue Monday

garfield_83_centerFeeling down today? Suffering from the grey weather and the cold?

You are not alone: today is Blue Monday. According to calculations, it is the most depressing day of the year. Christmas and New Year’s are a far away. Your presents already have found an anonymous place in between all your other material possessions, but you’re still on a low budget to compensate for your Christmas spending spree. And rather then thinking of good moments together, it’s the slight expansion of your waste-line that reminds you most of the holidays. The only thing you are looking forward to is Valentine’s Day, an awful commercial holiday, especially if you aren’t seeing anybody at the moment. And to make things worse, the first cracks are beginning to show in your New Year’s Resolution – maybe next year is the best time to work on the better you…

You recognise all this? Then you are likely to be a victim of the Blue Monday. Today, like every grey Monday in mid-to-late January, allegedly is ‘the most depressing day of the year’.

Except that it is not. Blue Monday is a phenomenon grounded in some reality – a grey January Monday isn’t likely to bring us the most fulfillment – but it’s not based on any serious science. According to the bogus formula, the bluest Monday was determined as such:

\frac{[W + D-d] T^Q}{M N_a}

where W=weather, D=debt, d=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since failing our new year’s resolutions, M=low motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action. How a factor like ‘weather’ is determined is completely left aside. And the same accounts for the other elements of the formula. None of them are grounded in science. And actually, it’s Wednesday, not Monday which is the saddest day of the week.

Blue Monday has been devised by marketeers to sell holidays. But in a way, there is also a positive message. Marking a negative day can be helpful in our process to deal with negative emotions. Light needs darkness. Positive emotions, to some extent, exist only next to negative ones. Blue Monday offers us an opportunity to be melancholic, to dwell in misery for a day.

Or even better, being aware of the day can motivate and inspire us not to be miserable. It can motivate us to seek the company of others, to host dinners, to invite friends for a drink, as I did yesterday at my own ‘anti-Blue Monday’ party. Fight negative stimuli with positive experiences.

Celebrate Blue Monday – that is my advice!

monday1

Fitter, happier

Fitter, happier
More productive, comfortable.
Not drinking too much.
Regular exercise at the gym (three days a week)

If you are like me, you’ve tried to start 2014 fitter and happier, like in the Radiohead song. Through New Year resolutions, we motivate ourselves to reinvent ourselves or to create a new and improved version.

Fitter, happier, more productive.

Evidently, New Year resolutions have something arbitrary: why would I quit smoking or start reading more often on the 1st of January? I can do that any day of the year. And psychology knows that the dark days of January aren’t the best time in the year to change a habit. Starting new habits just after the summer holidays seems to be a better moment. Still, the start of the year is a natural moment to evaluate personal development in the past year and set new goals.

But damn – does it require discipline to produce that improved edition of yourself! And I guess that by now, three weeks into the year, you might already have hit some of the dark moments. If you do, don’t fall for all the talk about Blue Monday, “the most depressing day of the year”, going around. Blue Monday is a scam, made up with the help of a fake academic to sell more holidays. And Monday is a better day than Wednesday, as I wrote before!

Instead, re-engineer your New Year’s resolutions.

Replace habits

In principle a new year’s resolution should do something very basic: replace a bad habit (like snoozing too long or wasting time on the internet) by a better one (getting up early or productively writing a blog post). But often our methods to attain these goals are unrealistic.

In this article – very much worth a read! – the author makes the analogy with a marathon. If you are training for a marathon, you don’t start your first day of training with a 30k run. You start with a couple of kilometres, and you gradually build it up until you are ready for that marathon.

So why should I suddenly spend one hour every day writing blog posts?

The point is: creating new habits is a tiresome process. You have to start slow. Start doing the activity five minutes a day (or one hour a week), until it’s a solid habit. And then increase the five minutes to ten, and so on, and so forth. That it gets done is more important than when!

In the words of US politician Horace Mann:

“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day and at last we cannot break it.”

A pig in a cage on antibiotics

But it’s not only overly ambitious goals that may fail. Often resolutions are too vague, and require further specification. In my case, I’d like to keep better in touch with old friends across the world. If that’s how I formulate the goal, it’s easy to fail. But if I aim to write to at least three people I appreciate every week, it’s probably more effective.

Still, in a way, I actually don’t feel all too comfortable about resolutions. Do I really need all these targets and deadlines? Do they make me happier, or do I feel stressed by all my self-imposed rules? Does all this planning really make me fitter, happier, more productive?

Or do I create, as the Radiohead songs ends

A pig
In a cage
On antibiotics

If there’s one thing I don’t aspire to (apart from losing my enthusiasm and curiosity) it’s feeling like a pig in a cage on antibiotics yet. Therefore, one of the key parts of my resolutions is to allow time for a break in all of them.

Something has to happen every day. But not everything does not have to happen today.

And breaking the rules is just as important as following them.

I do like Mondays

When I launched this blog, fourteen long days ago, I got many positive reactions. I’ve received many stories about happiness. They really make me happy, so please keep on sending them.

I was also requested to provide the option to subscribe to new posts. I’ll certainly do that with the rebranding in a couple of months. This is just the beta version. It’s like washing powder: you’ll get a new and improved version every couple of months. But to make it easier: my main blog posts will be published on Mondays.

Why Mondays? Well, I decided I do like Mondays. In principle, I attempt to leave my office at six and dedicate some part of my evening to cook a decent meal and write some lines on happiness. Having this set writing day disciplines and hopefully provides some clarity to my reader when it’s best to check this page.

Thinking about it, there is also a case to write about happiness on Mondays. With the weekend past and a long full working week ahead, you would think that a little of spark of happiness would be very welcome on Monday, right?

garfield_83_centerMondays are generally seen as the most depressing day of the week. Hate of Monday’s is everywhere, and was even at the origin of the Cleveland Elementary School shooting in 1979. In court, the perpetrator shockingly claimed “I don’t like Mondays. This lives up the day”. This is also how we got the Boomtown Rats song.

Pseudo scientists hired by a travel agency even have created a formula to determine ‘Blue Monday’, or the most depressing day of the year. As post-holiday season chubby thighs and bellies remain as the promising New Year resolutions on the new and improved version of yourself starts fading away, 21 January is sold as the best day to book a trip to the sun.

Whilst Blue Monday is a marketing stunt, there is some serious research on this topic. Somewhat disappointingly, studies contradict each other. With the exception of higher happiness levels on Fridays, this study by Ryan et al. does not find significant differences between Monday and other weekdays. The conclusion of Peter Dodds and Christopher Danforth’s amazing ‘Hedonometer’ however is different. In their research, they assess the emotional state of people as expressed in tweets and conclude that it is Wednesday, not Monday, that is the saddest day of the week.

Anyway. Less depressing or not, I am sticking with Mondays. But of course it’s up to you when to read this post. Whether you prefer a gloomy Monday, a depressing Wednesday or a happy Saturday, you’re always welcome.