Blue Monday

January 19, 2009 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: philosophy.

Isn’t it funny how Everything’s Gone Green is the title of my green news & views blog and now here’s a post on Blue Monday. Both those titles were tracks by New Order, one of the most influencial bands of the 80s and part of the soundtrack to my childhood. The single Blue Monday was not just a great track but a unique record. It was only ever released as a 12″ back in 1983 when every other chart single was 7″ and it made the top 10 in the UK  singles chart.

But Blue Monday is also the name given to the supposed “most depressing day of the year”, the third Monday in January. Today is Blue Monday.

The story of Blue Monday as the most depressing day dates back to around 2005 when the satellite TV channel Sky Travel paid a tutor at Cardiff University to come up with an “equation” to quantify the date. Taking into account a number of factors that you expect to add up to and equal a bad day, Dr Cliff Arnall published the “mathematics” he used to arrive at the bad day conclusion.

1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA

It certainly looks very complicated & clever to us laypeople, although from the algebraic remnants of my maths with stats studies back in college I’d have expected a more liberal use of parentheses to “firm up” that equation. If I were to do anything with those variables in the programming language PHP, for instance, I’m not sure we’d get a very logical result.

But anyway, those clever variables, according to the BBC back in 2005, are:

  • W: Weather
  • D: Debt
  • d: Money due in January paypacket
  • T: Time since Christmas
  • Q: Time since failure to quit habit in New Year resolution
  • M: General motivational levels
  • NA: The need to take action

That still looks odd to a humble but inquisitive soul; how do you quantify the weather, motivation and “need to take action”? But then I’m no mathematician or statistician nor do I have any classical science qualifications. But Ben Goldacre of “Bad Science” fame, with a modestly-used Dr title before his name, has cracked the Arnall Code. Basically, it’s bogus and, quite frankly, a piece of dishonest PR work that Dr Goldacre quite rightly dismisses as “giving science a bad name”.

Dishonesty aside, Blue Monday as a general concept does have some basis to it. In Britain and the northern hemisphere, January is a dark and cold month. The days are short and the weather is often bad, it is winter afterall. Christmas has passed, the New Year celebrations are over and now that the credit card bills are coming home to roost, many people realise that they may have overspent in the silly season.

For those people that don’t know me, I dislike the onslaught of winter. After spring & summer, the autumn is OK, but the winter months take a lot of adjustment. In January the gas bill is due, the water bill, the TV licence, taxes for my business, tax on the Mini and an MOT on the Subaru and it all adds up to a hugely expensive month.

All that said, is it going to be Blue Monday today?

Well the wind, rain and cold are nothing; it’ll be warm and sunny someday soon and the days have been getting longer since the winter equinox. Some of those horrendous bills are already paid and some are still due, but pay day is only 6 days away. Life is looking up so why focus all the negative energy into one day? If that is the case, then after the most depressing day things can only get better 🙂

Since this day has been hijacked for commercial purposes it has stuck in the national psyche as “the most depressing day of the year” and stupid bloggers blogging about it doesn’t help either. However, according to our friends at the beeb a bunch of happy people intend to carpe diem. The Optimists Society will be overturning Blue Monday and from now on the 3rd Monday of January will be International Optimism Day.

So join in, spread a little fun and happiness this Monday. Smile at everybody, say hello to random people. Crack a joke, have a laugh, do something silly, be positive. Things could be a lot worse so, in the words of Monty Python in The Life of Brian;

When you’re chewing life’s gristle,
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Forgotten the tune? Maybe this will jog your memory:

Have fun, folks, and don’t forget; It’s now International Optimism Day 😉


2 comments on “Blue Monday

  1. beckNo Gravatar says:

    Look at that. I had no clue there was a day in which being grumpy was officially allowed: Blue Monday. Of course, I think there’s a small-print clause that all grumpy privileges are revoked for anyone tricked into watching people sing while being crucified. Then you’re not allowed to be crabby at all.

    Anyways, it’s ok because I had other plans for my day: this is also Martin Luther King day and newly inducted National Day of Service. I’ve signed up to remove litter and debris from an area park….

  2. I started the post with the title Blue Monday and unfortunately for the optimists it is a much catchier title than World Optimism Day. But I will go with the chirpier title to remind people next year.

    As for being grumpy, blue Monday was far from it; after being ill for 3 weeks of my vacation and then still ill for another week, it was a good day. Of course, preparing and saving money for the most costly month of the year after December also created headroom too, so it was doubly good.

    Make sure those woods are sparkling.

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