The Blue Monday Blues
Called "the most depressing day of the year," is it just seasonal sadness or real depression?
It's mid January: the holidays are over, bank account drained, new years resolutions already broken, it's cold and dreary outside with no end in sight. Certainly not a merry time of year anymore!
Dr. Cliff Arnall, a Welsh psychologist formerly of Cardiff University, calculated that the 3rd Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year, dubbing it Blue Monday.
Here is Dr. Arnall's formula: [W+(D-d)]xTQ/MxNA]. W is weather, D is debt, d monthly salary, T time since Christmas, Q time since failure of attempt to give something up, M low motivational level and NA the need to take action. But it doesn't take a fancy scientific formula to get it; the feeling alone speaks louder than anything. But hey it's always comforting to be backed by evidence.
However, calling Blue Monday "the most depressing day of the year" is misleading.
All of the variables in Dr. Arnall's formula are situational. It may be a sad, uninspiring moment of the year, but this is dependent on external factors. True depression, in the clinical view, is a long lasting condition. According to Harvard Medical School, "Major depression is more than just a passing blue mood, a 'bad day' or temporary sadness. The symptoms of major depression are defined as lasting at least two weeks but usually they go on much longer — months or even years."
Depression affects one's ability to function regularly in daily life. More than merely situational, it can be caused by genetics, neurochemical imbalances, psychological factors and more.
We can see this by looking at wealthy celebrities who seem to have it all, made in the shade, who still struggle with depression and in some cases sadly take their own lives. Real depression is not just circumstantial; there are inherent internal factors at play, often at the physical level.
So do you just have the Blue Monday blues, that will clear up come springtime? Or is it a more serious long-term condition? One way to find out is through neurotransmitter and hormone testing. Knowing whether your brain, gut and endocrine chemistry are a cause for mental and emotional distress will help guide you to lifelong solutions. There are natural supplements and certain foods that can help, in addition to psychotherapy and alternative healing modalities.
You can conveniently check your neurotransmitter levels, including serotonin and dopamine, as well as hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and cortisol, with Canary Club's at home testing. This is your first step in figuring things out and getting on the road to singing "It's Friday, I'm in Love!"
And in the meantime...
Here are some things you can do to lighten your mood in the middle of the dark winter days, on any day of the week. These will help alleviate short term blueness, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and depression:
1) Light box: These indoor devices emit a full spectrum light to help your body maintain a natural circadian rhythm and help balance your neurotransmitters and hormones. There are many affordable options to choose from.
2) Sunning: Even if the sun is behind clouds, you can do this practice, and it only takes 3 minutes! Go outside and face the sun (with eyes closed). Breathe in the warmth and light of the sun. Send it down through your whole body. Inhale the feeling of warmth, exhale feelings of cold. The light of the sun through our skin and optic nerves helps stimulate serotonin production that uplifts your mood, and then turns into melatonin at night for better sleep.
3) Funny movies: Laughter is the best medicine! Watching comedies will lift your spirits. Interesting documentaries are also a good form of stimulating entertainment. Stay away from dramas and even worse, psychological thrillers.
4) Go to bed early: Take a cue from nature. The sun is going to bed early these days- so can you! Especially restrict use of glowing screens after 9pm. Read a book in bed instead, then just roll over and snooze away.
5) Herbal tea: Nourishing caffeine-free herbal teas can be a boost for your hormones and neurotransmitters. Here are some herbal teas that are known for their endocrine system and brain chemistry health benefits. They are also warming and flavorful wintertime treats!
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