The idea appears to have stemmed from a now defunct TV Travel Channel in the early 2000s, and their claim to have developed a formula to calculate the date, taking into account factors like average hours of daylight, days until the next pay day, average temperature, etc.
Ostensibly, this enabled them to “work out the day with the highest 'depression factor’, which you can then use as a focus for making things better and, chiefly, booking your holiday.
Although Blue Monday's origins can be interpreted as a way simply to generate more sales of holidays, the event has endured, somewhat contentiously, with some mental health organisations, like the charity Mind, lambasting it for contributing to “damaging misconceptions about depression and [trivialising] an illness that can be life threatening.”
Whilst it is true that seasonal changes can have an impact on our mental health (due, in part, to being unable to spend as much time in green spaces during the colder and darker months), mental health is something that everyone should carefully consider and monitor every day of the year.
And as The Mental Health Foundation states, “Mental health 'good and bad' days are individual to each of us” and it is, of course, “important to distinguish between temporarily feeling down,...and experiencing depression or a mental health problem that can be quite disabling for our day to day lives”.
Other organisations, however, like charity The Samaritans, have used the day to highlight issues like loneliness. They are trying to evolve the day into 'Brew Monday', encouraging people to share a cup of tea with someone who may be feeling isolated, so that “whether it’s all a load of nonsense or not, Blue Monday at least shines a spotlight on loneliness, and gets people talking about depression, even if only fleetingly”.
Breast Cancer charity Walk the Walk have also made use of the date to organise charity walks aimed at “urging women and men across the country to get walking to boost their mental health” and to raise donations to help treat breast cancer.
Wherever you stand on the Blue Monday debate, if you find yourself feeling less than cheery after the festive period, maybe having overindulged, spent more than you would have liked, or partied too hard, take some time to do something that makes you smile. Go for a walk, talk to friends, go to an art gallery, read a good book, or play with the dog, whatever makes you feel happy.