The big question
Is this the most depressing day of the year?
A short story
Once upon a time*, a group of travel marketers convened in early January to solve a problem: no one was booking new holidays in January.
“Every year it’s the same story,” said the chief exec, “it’s our lowest month for sales.”
“We could try a winter sun package promo,” suggested the marketer to her left, twirling a pen in his hands.
“Too boring, what else ya got? We need something fresh. Something clever.”
The marketer to her right slammed a palm down on the boardroom table. “What if…” he waited for his brain to catch up to his words, for an idea to materialise out of sheer will. “What if…”
Lightbulb! Market a disease, sell a cure.
“What if we tell people the most depressing day of the year is this month? So, you know, they should treat themselves to keep the blues away.”
The chief waved his hand, signaling for marketer two to go on.
“It sounds true, right? You know how grey January is here. Credit cards are coming due from Christmas presents long abandoned. The next paycheque still a ways off, guilt and shame rising from failed resolutions. People need a little self-care, a little something to look forward to.”
“We could say it’s scientifically proven—a calculation of variables. Weather, debt, minutes of sunlight,” chimed in marketer one.
“I can see it, yeah,” said the exec. “Make it a Monday. Blue Monday. I can see the PR now… do up a release, send it ‘round the local universities and see who we can get to sign it off. Whatever you need to sweeten the pot. I can see this working year after year…”
A little idea
It’s ‘Blue Monday’ here in the UK—the third Monday of January, so-called the ‘most depressing day of the year.’ You might see it trending on social media, pushed in sales emails, or featured in news articles.
In actual fact, it’s not the most depressing day of the year. It really is a made-up marketing thing, a fictional idea of a day dreamed up by a travel company trying to get you to book a holiday after you’ve spent loads on Christmas. Think of it in the same vein as those companies that try to get you to buy a dozen roses and book a restaurant on a cold, rainy February 14th.
The day itself was meant to ‘inspire action’ (aka buy shit). But, like the upcoming Let’s Talk day in Canada, behind the corporate spin are important conversations about mental health.
The truth is, depression doesn’t strike on a single day. According to Mind, in England a common mental health problem like anxiety or depression affects one in six of us in any given week.
And the related truth is that buying a holiday isn’t going to snap anyone out of a challenge with their mental health. Whilst having something to look forward to can be a good thing and self-care is important, this view of it would be like having ice cream for a broken arm instead of going to the hospital. Caring for ourselves is more than bubble baths with candles and sepia-toned Instagram posts overplayed with inspirational quotes.
Stigma against mental health problems is going down, but it’s not enough. We need more action—big and small. In personal ways, to not simply say we’re here for others, but to proactively reach out and ask how they’re doing—how they’re really doing. To open up about our own struggles. To create space for vulnerability and compassion. And in the bigger ways, to acknowledge the systems we live in, the situations that contribute to ill-health, the priorities we set as a society.
By all means, take today to check in with yourself and with those you care about. But also ask how you can show up for yourself and for others the rest of the year, too. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Until next week, take care of yourself,
P.S. Today is the last day to subscribe for a chance to win a signed book bundle of The Book of Hope and Meditations for Anxiety—two books packed with practical, everyday mindfulness exercises, journaling prompts, yoga, and creative ideas to build resilience, calm, and hope. Details on the website >