Psychologist’s step by step guide to beating Blue-Monday

Heidi Pullig

Dismal weather, Christmas debt, and failed new year resolutions are some of the factors that contribute towards Monday 16 January being labelled as the most depressing day of the year – or Blue Monday, as it is otherwise known.

Whilst many of us might be feeling a bit bleak after Christmas, there are things we can do shift our mindset this Blue Monday, explains Kelly Dawson, a psychology researcher from Kent. On how to look after your mental wellbeing, she says:

‘Christmas and spending time with family and friends is behind us, our bank accounts are somewhat depleted, credit card statements have arrived, and the tree and decorations are down. The relief we might have felt going back to work after a break is gone, and payday is a long way off. With the days still short and a bit dank and grey, it’s easy to feel a bit gloomy.

‘Even writing that made me feel a little glum – however, we are wonderfully adaptable! I felt blue because I just focussed on why this particular day, out of all other days, is more depressing. Our minds are meaning-making machines, now let’s give them a better job!

‘To stop Blue Monday getting the better of you, my first tip of the day would be to find five things that you are grateful for. These don’t have to be big mind-blowing things (though they can be of course). It could be the feel of your slippers as you slide your feet into them in the morning or the warmth of your coffee cup in your hand or the feel of your dog’s cold wet nose as they nudge you for a stroke. These were three things that happened to me within 15 minutes of being awake this morning. When you really focus on gratitude, that blue feeling just slips away.

‘This leads nicely to mindfulness and being fully present in the moment. We spend lots of our time reminiscing about the past or planning the future. But spending some time being fully immersed in the moment is really beneficial. Look around you, what can you see and hear? Are there any particular smells? What are your hands touching, how does that feel? Is it rough or smooth? Your senses are a great way to bring yourself right to the present moment. Spend a few minutes five times throughout the day focussing on your sensory experience.

‘Now we have got your mind in a better place, start the day in a helpful way! Get up early and go for a walk (or a run/cycle if that’s your thing), preferably in nature.  If you don’t enjoy nature, that’s no problem, don’t do something you don’t like. Try any form of exercise, from swimming to dancing in your kitchen! If exercise isn’t for you, then try turning your morning shower as cold as you can comfortably stand for a few seconds. Anything that gets your blood pumping will help your body release endorphins!

‘Lastly, self-care is super important all of the time, but on the most depressing day of the year definitely do something for yourself that makes you feel good. Don’t just think about it, actually block part of your day out in your calendar to make this happen – it can be a relaxing bath or reading a good book, taking a nap or meeting a friend.

‘These are my top tips to feel better on the most depressing day of the year and I hope you find them helpful. However, emotions are all there for a reason. Sometimes you need to feel them and that is ok too.  We all like to feel good and happy, but sadness has its place too. Rather than squash so-called negative feelings down, letting them come, feeling them fully and letting them go is needed. Having a good old sob if you need to is ok too.

‘Finally, it is ok not to be ok.  If you broke a toe, you would visit minor injuries.  If you had a toothache, you would see your dentist. If you are feeling overwhelming feelings, reach out to your GP or the NHS mental health services on A final note, you will never speak to or spend as much time with anyone as you do with yourself. Be gentle and kind.’

Kelly Dawson is a researcher in Cognitive Neuropsychology. Her research interests include Cognitive control, emotion – particularly in how different traits effect an individual’s ability to adapt on a cognitive task, and Cognitive control interventions – particularly in how different tasks change individuals ability to adapt on a cognitive task, both under neutral and emotional conditions.