Beware of Blue Monday

To be honest, for years I had heard the term “Blue Monday” mentioned, but didn’t actually know the meaning behind it. It turns out it is a pseudo-scientific concept which even has a mathematical formula (!) developed by Cliff Arnal, a neuroscientist who had worked in the psychology department of Cardiff University.

The formula looks something like this…


where W=weather, D=debt, T=amount of time since Christmas, Q=tamount of time since breaking our New Year’s resolutions, M=motivation level, Nafeeling the need to take action, and d=is an undefined variable (possibly salary). More can be found on Wikipedia.

The scientist in me grins at such a concept, but apparently many people do believe that the formula is a fairly accurate means of calculating the most depressing day of the year…Blue Monday!  The first time the formula was applied was in 2005, so 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of being able to calculate the most depressing day of the year.

When is Blue Monday in 2015? That would be today, 19th January, the third Monday in January!


Why “blue”?

The term “blue” has been used both figuratively and colloquially throughout history as reference to a depressed, down, unhappy or otherwise gloomy state of being. Phrases such as post-vacation blues (being sad when a vacation is over), baby blues (post-partum depression) and birthday blues (negative feelings related to getting older) are just some commonly used.

The first recorded use of “blue” being used to reference “sad”, dates back to late 1300’s. Chaucer used the term in his Complaint of Mars (written between 1375 and 1385):


Wyth teres blewe and with a wounded herte
Taketh your leve, and with Seint John to borowe
Apeseth sumwhat of your sorowes smerte.


In Chaucer the tears of a painful and jealous good-bye are “blue”, and probably the idiom has been reinforced by the notion that anxiety produces a livid skin color – but this is only conjecture.

Using the color in this context is in stark contrast to the fact that blue is actually the #1 most popular color of people surveyed and the color appears in 53% of the national flags in the world“. Even the business world loves it as blue is the “most commonly used color for corporate identity” and the “dark blue suit” is a staple in the closet of most business men. But it’s not just for working professionals. The blue jeans industry is one of the biggest in the world. Members of the aristocracy are often said to be “blue-blooded”.

Like other primary colors, blue has different meanings in different cultures; in German blau sein (lit. “to be blue”) means to be drunk, but blau machen (lit. ” to make blue”) means to skip work. Greeks believe that blue wards off the evil eye and Koreans often don dark blue when they are in mourning. The god Krishna has blue skin…

Bradford J. Hall, the author of Among Cultures: The Challenge of Communications, says that “Language is a rule-governed symbol system that allows users to generate meaning and in the process, to define reality.” By this definition alone, we can see that words that convey color bring meaning to the person deriving information from that word.

I found interesting the results of a survey that asked participants to “correlate a color to words which aren’t inherently linked“. Blue was the most popular color associated with the word “trust”, again a bit of dichotomy when considering its association with feeling gloomy.

Why a “Monday”?

Monday is generally regarded as the most difficult day of the work week, and one generally disliked being the first workday after the relaxation of the weekend. With the entire week still ahead, Monday is considered the “bluest” day of the week.

This is why the most depressing day of the year has become known as the Blue Monday! But seeing as how every Monday can be blue, perhaps this day should be called Bluest Monday?!

What can you do if you’re feeling blue?

You can neutralize the gloominess associated with Blue Monday by embracing self-praise, being assertive and proactively taking care of yourself (and your family). And if that still doesn’t help, rest assured things will be looking brighter soon enough as Blue Monday only lasts 24 hours! Knowing that the darkest days of winter have already passed, and from now until mid-June, each day will be a few minutes longer in terms of daylight should also provide some solace!

Upcoming Blue Monday dates…

  • 2016: Monday 18th January
  • 2017: Monday 23rd January
  • 2018: Monday 22nd January





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