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Surviving Blue Monday: Take Control of Negative Winter Habits

In 2005, Sky Travel publicized a press release sighting the third Monday in January, or thereabouts, to be the unhappiest day of the year. They and other companies used an equation with variables such as weather and motivation to calculate this unhappy day and thus inspire customers to take a vacation or buy an alcoholic product. The day was dubbed Blue Monday.

The idea that this is the unhappiest day of the year might make sense to some — the weather tends to be cold and gray, it is not long after the holidays, and Monday’s mark the end of the weekend and the return to work. However, there is no empirical evidence to back this claim, and scientists have contested the efforts to quantify Blue Monday as pseudoscience.

When the media takes hold of a catchy headline, like Blue Monday Causes Depression Across the Country, it can breed misinformation. In this case, scientists and psychologists note that the causes of clinical depression cannot be boiled down to a set of external factors that make the majority of the population depressed at the same time. Depression is more complex and debilitating than Blue Monday theorists claim.

Whether you believe in Blue Monday or not, it is true that some days are subjectively worse than others, and people may struggle through the constraints that winter brings in preventing outdoor and social excursions. With this in mind, start noting when depressive feelings are triggered and see what you can do to work through them.

  1. Remember that you have control.
    You may not be able to control the weather or your work schedule, but you can significantly influence your mood and perspective. Sometimes simply recognizing the factors that are influencing your negative mood can lessen their effect on you. Take time out of your day to force yourself to focus on positive thoughts. When you catch yourself making an automatic negative assumption, try to put a more positive spin on it. For example, if you think, “Oh here we go, another cold, grey day,” try to follow that thought with, “Seems like a perfect day for a hot chocolate and a snuggle with the dog on the couch.”
  2. Embrace old summer habits.
    It may not be as obviously pleasant as a 70-degree sunny day, but there are still benefits to getting outside and moving around in winter. If you are in an area that is painfully cold and you absolutely refuse to be outside for longer than you need to, go to a gym with tall windows or that has a pleasant view. Taking time to view nature can inspire calmness and a more positive mood. Make sure to continue partaking in aerobic exercise, which triggers the release of endorphins, chemicals that help reduce one’s perception of pain and also trigger positive feeling in the body.
  3. Practice gratitude.
    When it is dark and dreary outside, some people internalize the gloom. Make an effort to reflect on positive aspects of your life. There are many intrinsic benefits to gratitude, including feeling more optimistic and improved stress management. Make a list of things you are grateful for in the short and long-term, and share a few of them with someone you are close to.
  4. Remember to cuddle.
    Whether with a pet, friends, or a romantic partner, it is important to maintain physical contact during the winter months. Create a pact with your close friends to ensure that you will get together at least once every week, either at each other’s homes or out at a restaurant. Social interaction is pivotal to emotional well-being and often needs extra consideration in winter to avoid isolation. Continue to foster positive interactions to benefit you and your loved ones.
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