By David Martin –
According to what came out of our internet tubes when we opened them for cleaning, this coming Monday — Jan. 17, the third Monday of the year — is the saddest day of the year. This Blue Monday was cooked up in 2005 by supposed experts who calculated that the third Monday in January represented a confluence of depressing events: letdown from the joys and visits of the holidays, Christmas bills coming due along with regrets over how much was spent, New Year’s resolutions showing themselves as unkept, dark nights and dreary weather.
The good news is that the science behind Blue Monday is largely a joke, based on a publicity stunt by Sky Travel in England to sell travel packages. The bad news is that while there’s no proof that Blue Monday is the saddest day of the year, it is true that many people feel a mid-January letdown as we get back to regular routines, work, paying bills, and dealing with winter weather.
Mid-January is also the prime time for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a kind of depression that usually begins in the fall and deepens throughout winter. People suffering from SAD often feel listless or sad almost every day, have sleep problems, experience low energy but high craving for carbohydrates leading to weigh gain, and have suicidal thoughts.
Fifty years of studies have shown, however, that actual suicides go down during the winter and then spike in spring and early summer. Experts aren’t sure why this is the case. One line of reasoning is that people tend to hibernate from taking major actions in the winter, walling themselves off and hunkering down. Then, come spring, there’s a renewed energy to do something, to get something done — even if that something is, unfortunately, killing yourself.
Spring might also represent a fresh start for the world, which depresses suicidal individuals even more as they judge themselves unable to enjoy or ineligible to participate in a new beginning. This rejection of a fresh start might also be why Sunday and Monday are the two days when suicides are most likely to occur — at the beginnings of a fresh new week.
Before this all gets too depressing, let’s find some reasons to celebrate January and give Blue Monday a boot in its blue behind.
Every day this month is lighter — and just over two minutes longer — than the day before. By the end of January, this month will have given us an additional full hour of sunlight. Thank you, January!
This coming Monday we will also enjoy the brightest moon of the year, the full Wolf Moon, rising a little after 6 p.m.
Birthdays you can celebrate in January include Martin Luther King Jr. whose Jan. 15 birthday is now enshrined as a national holiday; Alexander Hamilton (Jan. 11) who made it onto the $10 bill before he became famous on Broadway; Joan d’Arc (Jan. 6) who, in the 15th century, led France to victory over England even though she was an illiterate peasant girl in her mid-teens … and who was burned at the stake for a variety of crimes, most notably for dressing like a man; and Elvis Aaron Presley who would have been 87 on his Jan. 8 birthday. By the way, it is officially Aaron, not Aron, so don’t even go there.