Rethinking Blue Monday with Maxine Bell

Experiment with what works for you and encourage others to do the same. Then maybe one day, we won't need Blue Monday to remind us to take care of our emotional and mental wellbeing.

Our Associate, Maxine Bell, joined Practice Solutions in 2021. Here, she  provides some perspective to 'the most depressing day of the year' alongside a gentle guide for how to care for ourselves and each other over Blue Monday and beyond.

"Blue Monday, which occurs on the third Monday of January every year, originally appeared in 2005 as a PR stunt by Sky Travel. They asked psychologist, Dr. Cliff Arnall, to create a formula to calculate the saddest day of the year. He included seven factors: weather, debt, salary, time since Christmas, time since failing New Year’s resolutions, and a lack of motivation coupled with a need to act.

Even though many of us can relate to those factors, it is just a formula and there is no scientific evidence to what Arnall claims. Logically, most of us know that depression does not happen overnight. However, I know I’m not alone in finding the long, gloomy winters and bare trees more tricky to navigate mentally than the brighter, warmer summer months. If nothing else, Blue Monday does serve as a reminder for us to take care of our own mental health and to keep an eye on any of our friends or family who seem to be struggling.

This extremely difficult two years has affected each individual differently, depending on their unique circumstances. The sudden change in our lives, feeling out of control, fear and anxiety over illness, the loss of loved ones, separation and isolation as well as conflict and new restrictions on our personal freedom have been a huge challenge to many of us. Those of us who were already struggling may feel worse and those of us who thought we were okay may suddenly find ourselves feeling vulnerable. More than ever, taking care of our mental health matters.

Practice Solutions’ People’s Charter includes promoting positive health and wellbeing. This starts with how we support each other within the company, but importantly, we work with many organisations with service users who may need mental health support and staff working under a lot of pressure or coping with challenging situations, tight budgets and other demands.

So, what does taking care of mental wellbeing look like? Here are some examples:

  • Regularly check in with yourself and be honest about how you feel – without judgement and with compassion.

  • Take care of yourself: for example, have a relaxing bath; discussing your workload with your manager; spend time with positive friends; turn your phone off sometimes.

  • Access further help when you need it by talking with someone you can trust, calling a helpline, such as Mind or the Samaritans or talking to your GP to help you access local mental health services.

  • Start a gratitude diary and write down the big and small things every day that you are grateful for.

  • Connect with nature, now scientifically proven to improve our mood and create a sense of awe, whether that is admiring your house plants or walking in a local park or woods.

  • Do something creative. You do not need to be an artist – just play.

Experiment with what works for you and encourage others to do the same. Then maybe one day, we won't need Blue Monday to remind us to take care of our emotional and mental wellbeing."

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