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Why Blue Monday is a myth - and five easy ways to cheer yourself up this January

Dr Philip Clarke, Psychologist at University of Derby Online Learning, explains why Blue Monday is a myth and shares his top tips on how to cheer yourself up in January.

By Dr Philip Clarke - 13 January 2017

Christmas is over, money is tight and the weather is grim - it has to be said, January is a pretty miserable month for most.

Furthermore, to add to the feeling of dreariness, every January we supposedly experience the "most depressing day of the year", also known as Blue Monday.

Originally coined by psychologist and life coach Cliff Arnall over a decade ago, every third Monday of January is said to be when this day of depression occurs.

However, feelings of depression are something that are not date dependant. Terming Blue Monday as the most depressing day of the year is very misleading and suggests feeling a little down and depression are the same thing. Consequently, in the psychology world, this term is dismissed and classified as more of a pseudoscience, with no real scientific credibility to support it.

Arnall published a formula which identified a series of factors: the weather, post-Christmas debt, low motivation levels and the failure of New Year's resolutions - which, combined, make it the most miserable day of the year. The formula was used in a press release by Sky Travel in 2005 and, since, the media has latched on to it every year.

But instead of being pessimistic in January, it should be the most exciting and optimistic month for people. It's an opportunity to start fresh, set new goals or New Year's resolutions and strive for your own personal greatness.

So, why is 'Blue Monday' NOT the most depressing day of the year?

Five top tips on how to stay positive this January

If you are feeling down this month and need a pick-me-up, check out these tips...

1. Strive to achieve your New Year's resolutions

January brings time to reflect on the last 12 months and set new goals for the year ahead. If you're struggling to stick to your New Year's resolutions already, don't beat yourself up. Go back over them and re-evaluate where you could make small changes to help you achieve your goals. Rome wasn't built in a day and the goals most people set in January take time and effort to achieve. Start with small steps, you can make bigger steps when you feel comfortable and ready. January is a perfect time to wipe the slate clean and have a fresh start.

2. Exercise

If you have overindulged in December, use January to blow off steam - and those pounds! Exercise helps release endorphins in the brain, which are known as "happy chemicals". You may feel tired and sore immediately after working out but you will feel mentally more positive, happy and experience a mental high. Regular exercise helps reduce stress and feelings of anxiety, boosts your self-esteem and helps with your sleep. So keep active!

3. Spend time with friends and family

Take yourself away from the everyday stress of work, money and anything else which is bothering you, and spend time surrounding yourself with the people you love. This does not cost anything financially and can instantly make you feel better by putting a big smile on your face. Positive psychology shows that counting your blessings and be mindful of the good things in your life can lead to improvements in mood and wellbeing.

4. Try a hobby you've never done before

Try something new. Start that new activity that you have wanted to do for a while now but always felt you haven't had time to do. Invest some time in yourself whether it be joining a book club, taking a dance class, walking in the countryside more, it's never too late to start.

5. Volunteer

As well as looking after yourself, there is nothing better than the feeling of helping others. If you have some spare time, see what volunteering opportunities are on offer in your local area and lend a hand to those who need it.

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About the author

Dr Philip Clarke
Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Dr Clarke's area of expertise is in performance under pressure and the psychological predictors and mechanisms that are associated, specifically for 'choking' and 'the yips' within sport.

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