How to Boost Your Mood On Blue Monday
Don't let the so-called "most depressing day of the year" get you down. Time to show Monday bum-day who's boss.
So there's this thing called "Blue Monday" that rolls around every January, just to remind us how miserable the dead of winter is. It lands on the third Monday of January (the most Monday-ish month), and has been dubbed the "most depressing day of the year." (Believe it or not, it even has its own Wikipedia page.)
And, to the situation even worse, we get 2021's Blue Monday almost a year into a global pandemic. Hurrah.
Admittedly, there's not much scientific evidence showing that people are indeed the most miserable on Blue Monday, but we do have an idea of where it got started. In 2005, U.K. psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall created an equation that takes into account seven different variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since you (probably) failed your resolution, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action, according to NBC. The formula, [W + (D-d)] x Tq ÷ [M x Na], took all these feelings and circumstances into account to predict that this day would the biggest downer of them all. I'm no mathematician, but I think you could even tack a new variable onto the equation for this year — coronavirus (C) — and divide the whole thing by it to get an even more miserable score.
While there isn't any research to back it up, you can understand why, for many people, this is the most "meh" Monday of them all: The holidays are long gone, temps are low (and staying that way), and the sun is nowhere to be found. The next real holiday break is light-years away (hey there, Memorial Day), and we're all realizing that resolutions aren't always fun — or easy. The only real perk to this time of year normally is staying in, laying low, and getting cozy. But this time around, you've been doing it for 10 goddamn months already — meaning any joy you may have gleaned from saying "no" to plans and Netflix and chilling with your fur baby is likely long gone.
All that said, here's an important PSA: Blue Monday is not to be confused with the serious instance of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or clinical depression. As entertaining as it is to complain about the January blues, it's still not the same as being diagnosed with a real depressive disorder. People also all experiencing various degrees of quarantine fatigue, serious chronic stress, and burnout (we appreciate you, essential workers!), trauma, and grief. You're definitely not alone if you're struggling right now — so don't be afraid to seek help. (See: How to Survive Seasonal Depression During the Coronavirus)
For everyone doing okay, though, complaining about Blue Monday doesn't mean it gets to run your life. Instead, here's how to ditch the "woe is me" act and show Monday who's boss with some take-charge feel-better tips. Because if we've learned anything in the last year, it's that when life gives you lemons, you should go make banana bread and sourdough until you feel better.
Go work out. Yes, even if you don't want to.
You know that Legally Blonde quote about endorphins? Listen to Elle, you guys. Instead of thinking, "Blue Monday sucks, so it's like a Get Out of Jail Free card for working out," you need to think, "Guess what, Blue Monday? I'm going to crush this workout and crush this day." After all, working out has a ridiculous number of brain and body benefits, including boosting happy mood chemicals, reducing stress, and alleviating anxiety. (Even science says this is why you should exercise even when you're not in the mood.)
And you really have no excuse: This year, since your gym might not be open, you don't even need to leave your house to get the endorphins flowing. All of these incredible streaming workouts are at your disposal and — even better — many of them have New Years' offers that'll let you tune in for free.
Go outside, even if it's cold and gross.
Find a park. Go for a walk. Stick your face in the snow. Enjoy the warm-ish weather (if you're one of those people who live in a magical, not-cold place). Why? Walking in nature (not in an urban setting, sorry) has been shown to reduce brain activity in an area associated with depression. Better yet, buck up and do your workout outdoors; it's been linked to decreased stress and increased energy. If it's dangerously cold outside (like, frostbite-level frigid), then go look at a picture of a beach for 10 minutes and play some reggae, or tune in to one of these hotels that are live-streaming their gorgeous views. Even just looking at a picture of nature has been linked to brain benefits. (More on that here: Science-Backed Reasons Nature Is Good for Your Health)
Yes, we're gonna say it: meditate.
If your brain is swirling with negative thoughts, the easiest way to get rid of them is to do a quick mental clean-up — yep, meditation. Your Blue Monday Grumpy Cat-self might scoff at the idea, but if you give it an honest try, it just might change your day (and life). Just a 15-minute session can lower your heart rate and calm your central nervous system, lowering anxiety, stress, and feelings of loneliness, as well as make you more compassionate. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of meditation. Try this 20-minute guided meditation right now or download one of these great meditation apps. If you really hate sitting in silence, try cueing up this sound bath and guided yoga flow — guaranteed, it'll make you a meditation convert.
Go with the flow — yoga flow, that is.
If you already worked out, went outside, and meditated, you're living your best possible life ever. An easy add-in for extra credit? Yoga. Throw some sun salutations into your workout warm-up or cool-down, or flow for a bit post-meditation to take advantage of your clear mind. You already know yoga is good for you — it's even been shown to significantly help depression (hi, winter blues) as well as moderate your reactions to and perceptions of stress. No yoga studios open in the midst of a global pandemic? Boom: These YouTube channels have tons of free yoga flows you can do right at home.
Give into some self-love.
In case you didn't know, #SelfCare isn't just laying on the couch with a face mask (the skin-care kind) on. It's the very conscious act of dedicating time and effort to treating yourself to whatever you truly need or what makes you happiest — whether that's a an expensive-but-worth-it Thai delivery date with yourself, an extra five minutes in bed in the morning to just stare at the ceiling and daydream, or a more hands-on self-love approach (if you know what we mean). Pinpoint your favorite indulgence or pick one of these 20 self-care ideas and go ahead — indulge. If you're not feeling particularly connected to your physical self ATM, consider one of these things you can do to feel good in your body right now. Blue Monday isn't looking so blue after all.
Go puppy shopping.
Well, internet or window shopping. Pups aren't a thing you want to impulse buy — but you can go steal some pats and reap the benefits of having your own pup without dealing with all the responsibility. Seriously — just petting a puppy is linked with decreased blood pressure. Ever tried to not-smile around a puppy? Impossible. Head out to the nearest ASPCA (or stand on the sidewalk and — mask-on — beg strangers to let you cop a feel of their fur baby) and kiss your Monday blues goodbye.
Celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
On a positive note, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is always on the third Monday of January, coincides with Blue Monday, and that's cause for celebration. MLK left a lasting and significant impact on American history, and it deserves to be recognized. Consider taking some time to shop these Black-owned wellness brands, beauty brands, and Etsy shops as well as reading up on implicit bias and how to be a better ally in the wellness space.
Go read some irresistibly inspirational quotes.
Sometimes you need a quick snap back to reality. The best route to insta-enlightenment? A kickass inspirational quote. Try these gems from local trainers, or the mantras that get Olympic athletes up and out of bed in the morning. (Because if it's good enough to get them gold, it's good enough to snap you out of that funk).
Pick up a new quarantine project.
By now, you've made those to-die-for cookies 10 times, perfected your sourdough recipe, and also completed enough coloring-book pages to side your house. You know what will spark some joy for sure? Picking up a new project. Not only does it channel creativity (which is great for your brain) and give you a mindful moment away from a screen, but it also gives you a larger goal to work toward — something experts say is crucial in riding out your quarantine fatigue. Don't know where to start? Here are some creative quarantine hobby ideas.
Ok, yes, it sounds like a chore, but hear us out: Cleaning and organizing can do incredible things for your physical and mental health, including reducing stress and depression, improving your productivity, and helping you sleep better (which we all could use RN). Don't believe it? Hear from one writer who says doing exactly that saved her sanity during the COVID pandemic. Start with a sock draw, a book shelf, your sneakers — anything — and get to work, Marie Kondo-style. You'll feel better after, promise.
Go through @therock's Instagram feed.
Go ahead and scroll. This guy is a living, breathing motivation machine. Feeling hopeless? He'll forcefully revive you. Thought of an excuse not to act like a human today? He'll negate it. Acting like a victim of Blue Monday rather than a champion? You can bet he'll snap you out of it — and fast. Can you guess what Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would say to Blue Monday? "COME AT ME."