Monday, January 21, 2013

Blue Monday

W = Weather
D = Debt
T = Time since Christmas
Q = Time since failing our New Year's resolution
M = Low motivational levels
Na = The Feeling of a need to take action
d = Not defined

This, my friends, is the equation that has lead to today coming regarded as 'Blue Monday'; the most depressing day of 2013.

Despite it's appearance, it isn't particularly ground breaking and if you are able to untangle it (I can't) it certainly doesn't really tell us anything we didn't know anyway. 

We're now 27 days away from Christmas and all the supposed tidings of comfort and joy that brings. We're 21 days into the new year which means we are also 21 days into our New Years Resolutions, which usually entails some kind of lifestyle change and more than likely if you're a woman, a diet. According to Australian Women's Health magazine, the average woman manages to stick to any given diet for approximately 19 days so it seems that by this point, she's either ditched it already or starting to struggle/get sick of it/have erotic dreams about Crunchies.

The weather is shite..I'm writing this from my living room in Ireland where the outside temperature is currently around about 3 degrees, it's been dark and drizzling since yesterday lunchtime. I'm beginning to think even the dreaded snow might lighten the mood a bit. It's pitch black and has been since 5pm so wakey wakey seratonin levels are down, while tiredness inducing melatonin is up.

Many people will have received a credit card or store card bill, a bitter reminder of the overspending that we all do at Christmas. Newly bought toys are now strewn across the floor and possibly broken, your new Christmas party dress isn't new anymore and you're fancy bottle of bubble bath is already half empty.

This dream team of dull, or 'The Legion of Gloom' if you like, leaves us feeling deflated and not on the best of forms. Although, in reality no more fed up than we may well be at other times during the year, which kind of undermines the whole thing really.

We didn't need a mathematic equation to tell us this, and it's a good job really cos the one above actually means very little. I would pretty confidently say that it's impossible to create a set of environmental factors that could reliably predict the onset of 'depression' of the whole country on the same date. I thought it was important to use inverted commas there to differentiate this from real, clinical depression which is no laughing matter. 

The equation and the whole 'Blue Monday' urban myth is rolled out at this time of year, every year and it turns out that it's origins are slightly dubious.

The Cardiff University Psychologist, Mr Cliff Arnall who produced this equation is only referred to as such because he spent a short time teaching 'psychology related evening classes' at the university's adult education centre. Apparently you can give yourself the title of a Cardiff University Psychologist if you have ever been employed by or had work published by the university, so he did. 

It was commissioned by, or least was part of, a publicity campaign by Sky Travel; supposedly to imply that the best way to combat this malaise was to book a holiday with what will more than likely be your first pay cheque after Christmas. Wikipedia states that 'Guardian columnist Dr. Ben Goldacre reported that the press release was delivered substantially pre-written to a number of academics by public relations agency Porter Novelli, who offered them money to put their names to it.' Interesting. 

What's even more interesting is the fact that not only has Mr Arnall furnished us with an equation calculating the most depressing day of the year, he also released one that calculates the happiest day of the year. Commissioned by Wall's, the ice cream people. Bet you can't guess when *that* is!

On one hand, I realise that in reality, Blue Monday is just a symbolic thing and in a way, a bit of fun in what would otherwise be a fun drought.

On the other though, it's nothing more than complete pseudo-science which is something I really can't abide. In this case, it's pretty harmless I suppose but in others cases, it definitely isn't.

To quote Dr. Ben Goldacre (again, I love him)..

'Bullshit is a slippery slope. All I suggest is that you should think a bit before you step on to the crest.'

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