OK, we admit it, January is depressing for a variety of reasons. It’s cold, it’s dark, you’ve gained a few pounds, you’ve spent too many pounds and the fun of the Christmas lead up and annual leave break is all over. So, it makes sense that it is possible that the most depressing day if the year is in January. However, is ‘Blue Monday’ a real thing or just another made up term pushed by media?
Over the last few years there has been a hype around ‘Blue Monday’, many companies have jumped on the opportunity for marketing feel good treats, holidays and all kinds of other produce. The origins of Blue Monday are disputed with some believing it was originally a PR stunt by a travel company to promote holiday sales in January, while others give credit to a part-time psychology professor at Cardiff University who created the ‘formula’ to prove the day to be the most depressing of the year. However, critics have complained that the formula makes little sense and has no real basis in empirical scientific evidence.
Whether the basis of this sadness themed day is fact or fiction we do not know, but we do know that year on year we see an increase in self-referrals for private psychological therapies in January (not necessarily on a specific day!). The nature of these referrals tends to fall into three categories:
- The ‘New Year, New You’ Types: Self-Development and Self-Care are growing as popular New Year’s Resolutions. As Mental Health stigma reduces more and more people are seeking therapies to ‘work on themselves’, to reduce stress, anxiety and low mood or increase self-esteem, confidence and assertiveness. And why not? What a great resolution and you are more likely to stick to it with the support of a therapist behind you!
- The Putter Off’ers: This group includes those who were struggling personally or in their relationships in the latter part of the previous year, but ‘put off’ seeking help until the New Year. Reasons for delaying can include the hope that a good Christmas may resolve the issues, a process of denial ie, it’s not that bad I’ll sort it out later, or clients who like the idea of a ‘clean slate’ that comes with the start of a new year.
- Responders to the Here & Now: Sometimes an issue just wasn’t present in December, but with the slower pace of January things come to the surface that weren’t previously noticed, or an incident occurs, and January takes a turn for the worst. Not all low mood in January is due to the weather, darkness and anti-climax of Christmas – remember depression, anxiety and traumatic life events happen all year around!
Whatever the reason January is a popular time to start Psychotherapy, is this because it is the most depressing time of the year? Maybe, maybe not. Conversely the New Year represents a New Start and rather than being depressing it can be motivational and inspiring to think about change and opportunity.
If you are considering starting Psychotherapy at this time of year then we say Go For It!! Psychotherapy is a journey of self-discovery and can the most incredible and life-changing experience.