Is Today Really the Most Depressing Day of the Year?

Blue Monday: scientifically-grounded downer day or invention made up to sell more vacations and protein shakes?

Courtesy of Flickr user Ramunus Geciauskas

It's Monday. It's the beginning of the work week—the first full one that many people are slogging through after at least a brief respite for Christmas and New Years. The weather is awful. And there's nothing but long, dark winter months to look forward to in the near future. Is it any stretch to call today—the first Monday of January following the New Year—Blue Monday, the year's most depressing day?

The Daily Mail reports on how this day earned the title:

Blue Monday was originally identified in 2005 by academic Cliff Arnall, who thought it fell on the last full week of January.

He calculated the date using a variety of factors including weather conditions, debt levels, failed New Year’s resolutions and the number of days that had elapsed since the end of the Christmas holidays.

But over the past three years, researchers analysed more than 2 million tweets posted by Britons in January looking for negative language and phrases indicating a drop in mood.

According to those analyses, resolve to follow through with New Year's resolutions is already cracking, leading to a surge of guilt-ridden tweets. Today's other monicker, "Divorce Monday," reflects the fact that January is the most popular month to initiate divorce paperwork, and today is the most popular day to kick off that stress and depression-inducing process. Pile on crummy weather and debts from holiday spending, and today becomes a perfect storm of misery culmination.

The Guardian, however, warns readers not to despair. This Blue Monday business, Pete Etchells writes, was originally concocted and funded by a travel business hoping to depress people into booking a vacation. Recently, the drink company Upbeat jumped on the Blue Monday bandwagon—they're the ones who conducted the tweet analysis. Apparently protein shakes are a cure for the blues.

"To be objective about it, no actual scientific studies have ever backed up any claims about Blue Monday," Etchells writes. So don't feel obliged to be depressed today —although, to be fair, slogging through the ongoing "polar vortex" on the way back to work is a pretty good excuse for feeling down. 

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