Blue Monday: Everything you need to ease Sad symptoms, according to experts
The third Monday in January is often referred to as Blue Monday– otherwise known as the most depressing day of the year. Coined by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2004, the date was calculated by factoring in the combination of bleak weather, post-Christmas blues, financial struggles and low motivation. This year it falls on 17 January.
But for many, feeling low during the winter months isn’t limited to just one day. Instead, it’s a symptom of seasonal affective disorder (Sad) – sometimes known as “winter blues” or “winter depression” – which is experienced throughout the season.
It is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, with symptoms including everything from low mood and irritability to feeling lethargic. While it is not fully understood what causes the condition, it's thought that the shorter, darker days during autumn and winter can have a negative impact on your temperament.
According to the NHS, the lack of sunlight experienced during this period can stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may increase the production of melatonin – a hormone that makes you feel sleepy – decrease the production of serotonin – a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep – and affect your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm).
Dr Luke Powles, associate clinical director at Bupa Health Clinics, says that it’s important for everyone to look after their mental health, particularly now people are working from home. “It's increasingly common for people to feel cooped up,” he said. "While the commute might’ve been frustrating, it was still a time to get outside. It’s the same with lunch breaks: lots of people are now eating at home, rather than popping outside as they would’ve done when in the office.”
Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind, agrees, adding that anyone working from home and experiencing Sad should “take time to get outside as much as possible.” He suggests “going for walks when you can, spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window”.