Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 23, 2013

House of Burgess – Most depressing day of year

Blue Monday has no basis in reality

By Rob Burgess
Tribune columnist

— Think back to Monday. It was just two days ago, so it shouldn’t be that difficult.

How were you feeling? How would you rate your mood compared to the other 364 days which came before it? I only ask because lore has it that the Monday of the last full week in January is Blue Monday: the most depressing day of the year.

Blue Monday came to fruition back in 2005 when Dr. Cliff Arnall, a Welsh psychologist and then-tutor at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at Cardiff University, was paid a total of £1,650 (roughly $2,600) by British firm Sky Travel to calculate that date.

“The self-styled ‘freelance happiness guru’ chose the date based on a pseudo-mathematical formula involving the weather, debt, motivational levels and time elapsed since Christmas,” reported Alastair Jamieson of The Telegraph. “[Dr. Arnall] has [since] admitted the idea of a single most depressing day was ‘not particularly helpful’ because it became ‘a self-fulfilling prophecy’ and that achieving happiness and being less materialistic was a year-round aim.”

Also included in that $2,600 was Dr. Arnall’s fee for calculating the happiest day of the year.

“The equation Dr. Arnall devised to find the happiest day, in work commissioned by ice cream maker Walls, was O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He,” reported the BBC. “Within that, O stands for being outdoors and outdoor activity, N for nature, S for social interaction, Cpm for childhood summers and positive memories, T for temperature and He for holidays and looking forward to time off.”

(In case you’re curious, Dr. Arnall has declared the happiest day of the year to fall sometime in mid-June. Go figure.)

After these dates went public, Cardiff University publicly distanced itself from Dr. Arnall and his pronouncements.

“Cardiff University has asked us to point out that Dr. Cliff Arnall, mentioned in the article below, was a former part-time tutor at the university but left,” read a disclaimer at the beginning of Ben Goldacre’s article on the phenomenon for The Guardian.

All of this is pseudoscience and has no factual basis in reality, but I can certainly understand why people get caught up in it. It certainly feels true. The three months preceding January are chockablock with exciting holidays. In the 62 days between Oct. 31 and Jan. 1 we had Halloween, Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Mayan Apocalypse Day, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It’s no wonder the post-Christmas lull has people down.

Certain groups must have it harder than others, though. If you’re a racist I can totally understand why Monday had you down in the dumps. Sunday saw the first mixed-raced president in the country’s history sworn in to a second term, Monday was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day and February is Black History Month. (What’s a bigot to do?) Those afflicted with seasonal affective disorder are bound to have a hard time right around now as well. By some estimates this group comprises up to 10 percent of the population. Interestingly, this condition also strikes some during the seasonal change to warmer, brighter weather as well as the darker winter months. Someone had better urge Wall’s to rethink its whole happiest day idea. But, then, I guess being sad is as good an excuse as being happy to gorge on ice cream, right? Large retailers also have to be similarly hanging their heads right around now as well. Two of the largest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, have long since faded from the rear-view mirror. And I’ve yet to see anyone try to monetize Dr. King’s birthday like Christmas. Although, I’m sure someone is bound to try it someday.

The fact that Blue Monday is even a thing at all speaks to our need to fill this white, cold void between now and the first signs of spring. But you don’t need to wait for permission from your neighbors to celebrate. (Or eat ice cream. Or book a vacation.) Every day is a holiday if you look hard enough. According to the Hallmark Channel, today is National Handwriting Day and Measure Your Feet Day. And Thursday is Beer Can Appreciation Day, National Compliment Day and National Eskimo Pie Patent Day. Party on.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robaburg.