Blue-skinned girl sitting, sitting cross-legged next to a calendar of January, meditating
Credit: Sophie Misslin

Blue Monday is so much more than a song

By Zein Al-Maha Oweis

What can we do to look after ourselves on the apparent saddest day of the year?

Every January we are overcome by the blues – those seemingly never-ending feelings of loneliness, fatigue, and boredom. One day in particular seems to be the worst, though. Yes, I am talking about the dreaded Blue Monday. Allegedly, the 17th of January will be that day where you put on some jazz tunes and sit on your bed staring at the ceiling, because it is the one day in the year when we feel more unproductive, lazy, and unresponsive than any other day. For many, it’s gloomy because we have to get back to class or postgrad research. I personally find it literally gloomy because I am visually impaired, night blind and glum by the dreary January weather (slippery roads and ice just don’t work well for my white cane). Normally seen as a post-Christmas slump, it is derived from an equation for a travel firm created by Dr. Cliff Arnall, a Cardiff University psychologist. It masks the true identity of depression, chronic illness and other psychological issues by making it seem as if this gloom is simply temporary. We all go through our own sadness on this one day in January which, I believe, sometimes plays a trick on our subconscious.

Well, I am here to tell you that there is an unofficial cure which has helped me overcome my own Blue Mondays. I have found three things that have made me get out of my own funk that can help anyone deal with their own dreary January.

1.     Literally brighten up your day

Being night blind, I am consistently seeking places that are filled with bright lights, whether it’s natural or not – that’s why I dread the winter seasons so much. With the shortening of days comes longer and darker nights. This usually feeds into my low mood and lengthens Blue Monday into a more prolonged blue winter. I dread this because it brings out my claustrophobic side, causing me to feel as if I am restrained in an infinite box made of darkness forcing me into a life between four walls. Enter: the sunlight lamp. An ingenious invention that brings light to the darkest of days, with the added benefit of making you feel as if you are basking in the rays of the actual sun. This has been a lifesaver for me, bringing me joy even during the winter days. You can get your own sunlight lamp (in any shape or size) from Amazon or from the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB). It’s a real worthwhile investment. When it comes to the 17th though, try your best to go outside, even for 15 minutes. It could make the difference that you’ll need.

2.              Doodle all night long

Have you ever had those nights where after a long day of classes, writing lab reports, and stressing over essays, all you want is your bed but, as soon as your head hits the pillow, sleep is impossible? Well, you’re not alone. Why is it that my body is so tired, yet my brain is like a machine that keeps on going? Can’t my thoughts take a break for the night? Nope! In this case, I try to read or watch an episode of Strictly Come Dancing, but the beast cannot be tamed. It’s time to use different tactics. I usually keep a journal and pen next to my bed for such rare occasions. I make a cup of tea, open a new page in my journal, put pen to paper and just doodle. Without thinking, I draw or write what comes to mind. This usually helps me clear my head which, in time helps me fall to sleep. If this isn’t your thing though, Blue Monday is a great time to stick on a comfort film to switch off your thoughts, if only for 90 minutes. 

3.              A walk a day keeps the blues away

The best medicine for getting over the blues, in my humble opinion, is walking. Whether you are the kind of person who loves to walk safely indoors on a treadmill or outdoors in the fresh air, getting your body moving will cure anything. Just walking around your neighbourhood can help get the gloom out of your system. Scotland has many beautiful places fit for walking, and many are right here in Glasgow! My favourite route is through Kelvingrove Park on a snowy day. The feeling of snow crunching underneath your feet as you try to balance yourself on uneven grounds is enough to distract you from your own funk. All you need to do is put off your phone, grab a hot chocolate, coffee, or tea and aimlessly venture around. I kid you not, by the time you are back home you’ll have forgotten about your own Blue Monday.

Different people have different methods for distraction on Blue Monday, but these are just a few of mine. So, on the 17th of January, remember to stay sunny, get drawing, and go on a little adventure!


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