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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

Reframing Blue Monday

The concept of Blue Monday isn’t actually rooted in psychology.  Remember Black Friday?  Well, Blue Monday is another marketing term.  It refers to the third Monday in January, and it was dreamt up by the commercial world (in this case, a travel company) to stand out on a press release that was designed to make us all book another holiday in January.  So we can all breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that we are not predestined to feel terrible on a specific day in January.  I chatted to Hello Magazine all about reframing Blue Monday. Click here to read the original article, and read on to learn what I had to say.

Even if we understand the murky origins of Blue Monday, it remains true that the idea of Blue January resonates with many of us at this time of year.  The festive season is characterised by fun, light, laughter and excess.  And by contrast, January feels like the epitome of ’the blues’.  The low mood that comes as a hangover from the festive season, when all we are left with is regret, frustration, tired eyes, full bellies, and an empty wallet.  And the skies remain dark and grey, which can lower our mood further.  

Expectations play a central role in setting our mood.  If we assume that we are going to feel bad, then we look for signs to confirm our expectation.  This is known as ‘confirmation bias’.  So if we’re expecting Blue Monday to be bad, then we are more likely to notice the things that make us feel sad or low.  And once we are already feeling this way, further negative thoughts can trap us in a downward spiral.  The collective ‘crowd mentality’ can also reinforce the idea that we will feel bad on a specific day.  If another people are talking about something, then it’s easy to subconsciously start feeling that way ourselves.  

Reframing Blue Monday. It’s important to understand that there simply isn’t a factual basis for ‘Blue Monday’ as a specific day that has a uniform impact on us all.  We are all individuals, coping with our own challenges and emotions and responses.  It’s nonsensical to imagine that we would all respond the same way on the same day.  But if we are going to accept the existence of ‘Blue Monday’ then how about reframing it in different terms.  We could consider it as a day when we might need some extra self-care.  When we might need to reach out to friends and show them some extra comfort and support.  And when we should focus on our positive intentions, achievements, and what we are grateful for.  

Top tips for reframing Blue Monday for yourself:

  • Acknowledge and untangle how you’re feeling.  There is a positive upside to the idea of ‘Blue Monday’.  And that’s the idea that it’s ok to be feeling low, and it’s ok to share how we are feeling.  For many of us, this is half the battle.  So if you’re struggling with your feelings this January, now’s the time to really put them under the microscope. What is it that you’re feeling?  This might feel like an unfamiliar exercise, and maybe you’re just feeling ‘low’.  But on further exploration, it can be really helpful to learn what’s going on underneath.  Maybe it’s sadness, anger, frustration, resentment, jealousy, anxiety, fear, worry, stress, the list goes on … And once we know what’s happening, it’s so much easier to identify where it comes from and understand our triggers.  

  • Get outside into the fresh air.  At this time of year, it is oh-so-tempting to close the curtains and reach for the duvet.  But fresh air and sunlight really are our friends.  Getting outside is a real antidote to the low mood that we sometimes feel in January.  Going for a walk, thinking about our breathing, connecting with our bodies.  It all helps us to feel grounded and connected.  And it offers us a sense of perspective which can be really helpful to combat negative thinking and anxiety.  It’s also worth thinking about how you can ‘bring the outside in’.  Can you make changes to your indoor environment to improve your access to fresh air and natural lighting.  All of these measures can boost our mood, especially for those of us who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder.  

  • Think about what might make you happy this year.  This isn’t about adopting resolutions, or massively changing our behaviour.  It’s about reflecting on the things that bring a smile to our face, and about achievable ways to bring them into our lives more often.  Think about how you would end this sentence, ‘I feel happiest when …’.  You might surprise yourself with what you come up with.  

  • Help others to help yourselves.  There’s a lot of focus on how we can help ourselves at this time of year.  Plans and goals and self-improvement.  These might be helpful if you’re motivated by a specific goal or change that you want to make.  But I would encourage all of us to think a bit deeper, about our sense of purpose.  We all crave connection - consciously or subconsciously - and one of the best ways to build connection is to help other people.  This might be about volunteering, about befriending a neighbour, or pitching in on a task that really needs your skills.  And it leads to what’s known as the ‘helper’s high’, the positive ‘hit’ that we get when we help other people, and so it becomes a way to boost our own mood too.  

  • Keeping up appearances.  My focus is always on our internal worlds, our feelings and thoughts, and our emotional wellbeing.  But if we’re struggling with our mood, then it’s worth paying attention to our outward appearances too.  And this might mean fighting the urge to wear slouchy clothes and ignore our physical appearance.  There’s something about the idea of ‘fake it until you make it’ that rings true here, psychologically.  If we proactively choose to take care of our physical appearance, it sends an internal signal that we are worthy and deserving.  This can boost our confidence and self-esteem.  We can even take it one step further, and really pay attention to wearing clothing that brightens up our day, in a practice known as ‘dopamine dressing’.  

  • Step away from your devices.  If we’re tired and overwhelmed, and don’t have the money or inclination to go out and socialise, then it’s easy to end up spending our spare time in a mindless scroll on our devices.  This feels like a simple, relaxing pleasure.  But it quickly becomes an addictive habit that has the power to worsen our mood, and damage our self-esteem.  So consider making January the month that you limit the time you spend on your devices, or on certain apps, and perhaps consider a 'digital detox'.  

Keen to explore more?

I love working with people to help them to understand themselves, and why they feel the way that they do. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch. Click here to contact me or click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.

Reframing Blue Monday

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