United Kingdom

Challenging Blue Monday

January 2018

January may be a time of great change and transformation for some, but for many, the third Monday in January has long been accepted as the most depressing day of the year thanks to a toxic combination of factors including darker and shorter days, post-Christmas blues and debt issues.

Yet so-called Blue Monday actually started out as a PR stunt by travel company Sky Travel and psychologist and life coach Dr Arnall in 2005 when they first developed a formula in an attempt to provide a scientific basis to the theory:

Blue Monday Theory

(W= weather, d = debt, T= time since Christmas, Q = time since falling out of new year’s resolutions M= motivational levels N= the need to take action.)

Since then, Blue Monday has now become an annual event where employers and employees alike are encouraged to take steps to ‘beat the January blues’. But according to The Metro, the original stunt was never intended to create such a negative association with January and many charities including Mind have since distanced themselves from the idea all together.

Speaking back in 2016, Stephen Buckley, Mind’s head of information said: “Blue Monday contributes to damaging misconceptions about depression and trivialises an illness that can be life threatening…there is no credible evidence to suggest that one day in particular can increase the risk of people feeling depressed. There are of course, certain things that may make people feel down at this time of year, such as post-Christmas financial strains, broken New Year’s resolutions, bad weather and short daylight hours. However, depression is not just a one-day event.”

But Charles Alberts, wellbeing expert at Aon Employee Benefits said Blue Monday can help raise awareness about mental health, especially as sometimes external factors such as the weather, can contribute to ill health.

“This awareness is powerful,” he said. “It can help many people understand theirs and others’ emotions and perhaps even help them take positive steps to lift their spirits in anticipation of a month that many people do not enjoy.

“Employers can use Blue Monday as an opportunity to improve employee wellbeing and show that they care.”

This year, Dr. Arnall has launched a new campaign along with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays to challenge long-held Blue Monday beliefs in an attempt to undue the negativity associated with January.

“The Blue Monday sentiment [that has lingered] since 2005 was never my intention,” Dr. Arnall told The Independent. “Whether embarking on a new career, meeting new friends, taking up a new hobby or booking a new adventure, January is actually a great time to make those big decisions for the year ahead.”

Despite this, debt in particular does appear to be a huge problem for many Brits around this time of year. According to debt advice charity National Debtline who surveyed over 2,000 British adults found that 16 per cent of people – around 7.9 million – fear they could experience financial issues following overspending during Christmas. The charity warns this is 11 per cent more than in 2016. In addition, over half of those questioned admitted to not saving enough in the run up to Christmas.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust who run National Debtline said: “With millions expecting to fall behind with their finances in January, we want people to be financially prepared for the year ahead.”

Chris McWilliam, principal consultant and pension specialist at Aon Employee Benefits urged employers to provide additional help to staff by providing access to debt counselling services through existing Employee Assistance Programmes or pointing members towards the Money Advice Service or Citizens Advice.

“It is concerning that debt is becoming more of an issue, but following some simple steps can help relieve the pressure,” he explained. “The key to keeping finances on track is to set a budget and stick to it. That way, you only spend what you can afford. For employers, offering financial wellness sessions can help staff understand key concepts which will help throughout the year too, not just in January.”


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