Wellbeing & Benefits

January 18 has been marked down as Blue Monday – the third Monday of January, when everything is supposedly at its most depressing. But was the day ever actually based on anything, or is it just a massive PR job?

How was Blue Monday worked out? Psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall first calculated  that Blue Monday was mega depressing in 2005, after putting together this formula:

Blue Monday

Where W is weather, D is debt, d is monthly salary, T is the time passed since Christmas, Q is the time since the failure of an attempt to give something up, M is low motivational level and Na is the need to take action.

One glaring issue with the above ‘formula’ is that Arnall never specified what the units of measurement were – so we have no idea how the equation would work in practice. Another warning sign should be that it was first put together in conjunction with the (now defunct) Sky Travel, to make people feel like their mood was low and that, perhaps, booking a holiday might solve this.

Both Arnall and his formula have been widely discredited by the scientific community. Just one year after the formula’s magic appearance, for example, scientist Ben Goldacre wrote a column in the Guardian calling the idea ‘stupid’. Repeatedly.

‘The fact is that Cliff Arnall’s equations are stupid, and some fail even to make mathematical sense on their own terms,’ he wrote. ‘In fact it’s not surprising that these equations are so stupid, because they come from the PR companies almost fully-formed and ready to have [scientists’] name attached to them.’

He goes on to call Blue Monday ‘corrosive, meaningless, empty, bogus nonsense that serves only to caricature and undermine science’, and Arnall a ‘corporate whore’.

Since it was created over a decade ago, Blue Monday has definitely taken on a life of its own – but this might be because it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.

At the same time, there is something a bit depressing about being broke and bloated and having to deal with rubbish weather. To that, all we can say is – don’t let Blue Monday get you down. Why not book a holiday?

And of course things can open get better from tomorrow – ‘Terrific Tuesday?’

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