What is Blue Monday?

With January now in full swing and most of us battling through the third week of work in the new year, thoughts of the next break may feel incredibly distant. On top of this, Britain is currently worried by the uncertain fallout of Brexit, the death of numerous celebrities has reminded many of their own mortality and an actual supervillain is about to become the most powerful man in the world this week. However, for some, there are not enough genuine reasons to be worried so we must pander to the marketing construct of ‘Blue Monday’. Now, as content marketers we love a date in the diary – even more so if it gives us an opportunity to share, create something funny or post a meme or two. But what exactly is ‘Blue Monday’?

The concept was constructed in 2005 by Cliff Arnall, a psychologist from Cardiff University who claimed to have ‘calculated’ the worst day of the year using variables such as ‘weather’ and ‘motivational levels’. However, the variables used by Arnall are of course abstract and unquantifiable; you cannot simply determine the motivational levels of an entire population. The identity of Arnall is also shrouded in mystery, as Cardiff University have refuted claims that he works in their Psychology department.

Of course there is the possibility of one day in particular being the most depressing each year, but in order to scientifically prove this, an extremely robust, large scale study would be required. One would have to measure around 10,000 people who reliably represented the population over the course of around 30 years, while developing measures for the likes of motivation and depression. If that doesn’t sound complex enough, consider that motivation will change over time and many participants will die, thus providing intricate consistency issues.

Predictably, Cliff Arnall (who now runs happiness and confidence sessions in Brecon, Wales) came out in 2010 and admitted that he was paid by a PR firm to come up with this farcical formula for Sky Travel, in order to persuade people to book holidays. Furthermore, he was also paid by Wall’s ice cream company to ‘determine’ the happiest day of the year.

On a more serious note, it is safe to say that the concept of Blue Monday is more damaging than many people realise. In essence, the underlying implications of the so called ‘study’ suggest that depression is simply a fleeting emotion that can be trivially dismissed. Genuine clinical depression is a serious disorder which has undergone well-documented struggles in being taken seriously by many individuals. Ill thought out marketing stunts such as ‘Blue Monday’ do not help this.

Now, if like me you are actually feeling a bit glum this Monday then here’s Fry to provide you with a little lift to make it through the day.

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