Blue Monday, typically the third Monday in January, has been described as the most depressing day of the year. It originated in 2005 after a travel company claimed to have calculated the data using an equation.
But for Dr. Muhammad, Niagara Health’s Interim Chief of Mental Health and Addictions, the idea that one day could be deemed the saddest of the year is unrealistic.
“It is a myth because there is no scientific basis for Blue Monday,” says Dr. Muhammad. “Human beings are very complex beings.”
While the concept of one day being the most depressing is a myth, the winter blues are all too real for many people, says Dr. Muhammad. Winter Blues can include changes in appetite and lethargy as the days grow shorter.
“Winter brings a lot of depression,” says Dr. Muhammad.
And it can be especially difficult immediately following the holiday season, when there are fewer social gatherings, people spend more time ruminating about the past, the holiday bills start rolling in, and people are more likely to be housebound because of weather conditions.
“These are the things that lead you to have depressive thoughts,” says Dr. Muhammad. “It is a cumulative effect.”
Dr. Muhammad offers these tips to help combat the winter blues:
- Get active: “Engage yourself in recreational activities you enjoy,” he says.
- Be social: Many of us make a point of gathering with friends and family during the holiday season, but there may be less of that in January. Dr. Muhammad encourages people to make a point of getting together with others in the weeks following the holidays. “If more social activities are promoted, you will have more activities to look forward to.”
- Turn on the tunes: Listen to music you enjoy to boost your spirits.
- Laugh: Do things that make you smile or laugh. Laughter truly is good medicine.
- Let the sunshine in: While there is less daylight in the winter, take advantage of what sunshine we do experience. Embrace the winter and find activities to do outdoors, like hiking. And when you’re inside, try to be exposed to as much natural light as possible
The winter blues differ from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a more serious form of depression, and usually requires more intensive help and therapy. In most cases of people who suffer from SAD, symptoms start in the fall, when the days start to shorten, and continue into the winter months.
If you need someone to talk to, Niagara's Mental Health and Addictions Access Line is there for you at 1-866-550-5205.
Read a story in The St. Catharines Standard featuring an interview with Dr. Muhammad here.