Apparently, today is apparently the most depressing day of the year. There's no science in it but the fact that it's mid-January and pay-day is two weeks away might sum it up. We've got some tips to get you through and a past episode of The LifeStyle Show to explain the phenomenon of 'Blue Monday'.
In the mid naughties, a travel company alleged to have identified the third Monday of January as the most depressing day of the year. 'Blue Monday' for all those north of the equator was the result of a complicated scientific calculation. It has been disputed since as nonsensical pseudoscience.
However, a few weeks in and the new year resolutions clatter to the ground beside the incoming bills from the holiday season. With the power of suggestion and a little help from the media moguls it is has become as synonymous as Black Friday and other 'Hallmark holidays' sprinkled throughout the year.
Last year social media was alive with PR engines embracing an alternative outlook on Blue Monday. Inseminating the digital world with positive spins on the gloomy forecast.
This year will no doubt be awash with further analysis of the fact or fiction that is the most depressing day but one thing is beyond reasonable doubt: on any given gentle flip of the Gregorian calendar, you can do something to lift your mood.
There are proven techniques developed across the field of Mental Health: the practice of cognitive behaviour therapy, occupational therapy and Dr Marsha M. Linehans’ dialectical behavioural therapy.
During Mental Health Week, I covered some of the daily coping tools which anyone can add to their arsenal. Here are a host of others to try out this year.
Helping to disengage, assess and address what’s going on this can be one of the most useful tools.
S: Stop - As soon as you catch yourself through either thoughts or physical feeling wound tight say to yourself really loudly STOP. Pause for a moment.
T: Take a long deep breath - When you do this you shift your attention from mind prattle and refocus the body, thus activating the parasympathetic nervous system allowing you to step back.
O: Observe - what are you reacting to? What are the thoughts saying to you? What are you physically feeling?
P: Pull Back, Perspective - What’s the bigger picture? What advice would someone else give or would you give to a friend in the same situation? How important is it now?
P: Practice what works, Proceed - What can I do right now or not do? What is the worst thing that can happen?
You can apply this throughout the day in varying scenarios as common as meetings, traffic and more. The stop technique allows the thinking brain to engage.
During all the mind prattle we can wind ourselves into a frenzy interpreting, forecasting, worrying, the list goes on. If you find yourself stressed or worrying try the THINK method.
T: True - Are the thoughts you’re having true? Is it absolute fact? Will it stand up in a court of law beyond reasonable doubt? What is True about this situation?
H: Helpful - Is this thought helping me right now? What would be helpful to think?
I: Important, Inspiring - Is the thought inspiring you now? Is it important? If neither of these is the case then dismiss the thought.
N: Necessary - Do you need to think this right now? Is it relevant to now? Do you need to act on it now?
K: Kind - Is what you think, kind to yourself or to others? Watch the way you talk to yourself. If we said out loud to someone else what we say to ourselves it would horrify us. Be kind.
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett
Practice this for a minute or two everyday on an everyday task. It’ll help bring the practice of mindfulness into habit.
Notice: Where is your attention focused right now?
Observe: Wander through the senses and observe what you see, touch, feel , etc.
Wise Mind: Choose where to place spotlight of attention
This is a great tool for coping with insecurities, the unknown.
A: Acknowledge - Notice the thoughts and acknowledge the insecurity of the situation.
P: Pause - This is tricky — don’t act or react, just notice and breathe. Bring back your parasympathetic system.
P: Pull back - Keep focusing on the breathing and start to observe the thought from a distance. If it helps envision placing it on a chair beside you for the moment.
L: Let It Go - Thoughts and feelings are just that, thoughts and feelings. Not fact. If you push them away they become the hokum Pink Elephant in the room. Try to let it flow over you like the water from a shower.
E: Explore - Bring yourself back to the present with some of the mindful practice such as NOW.
A simple acronym initially developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan as part of successful treatment for ERD.
PL - Physical Illness. Taking care of your physical health is extremely important. Winter especially can increase your chances of coming down with a virus. Every morning, take a moment to see how you're feeling and take care of your physical health. Feeling good physically will help your mental wellness.
E - Eat Well. What you put in you get out! It only makes sense that what you put into your body will influence how it performs. Be sure to balance your diet and eat everything in moderation.
A - Avoid mood altering substances such as caffeine and alcohol.
S - Sleep. A bad night sleep will have a massive impact on your mind and body. Poor sleep can affect your mood, perception, and even your weight.
E - Exercise. Just 20 minutes of physical activity can make a difference to your mental and physical health. A stroll at lunch, playing with the kids or even gardening can help if pumping iron in the gym isn't your style.
Dr. Marsha Linehan recommends an additional skill that contributes to our well-being.
M - Mastery. Do one thing every day that makes you feel competent and in control. If you feel like you have achieved something, even a small task, it could help your overall mental health.
Interwoven or used in solitary practice the use of these daily tools can turn a difficult 24 hours into an amenable 24 hours. Principally - do what works for you.
Just because the world says it's Blue Monday and you should be miserable or otherwise does not mean you have to go along with it.
Listen back to Paula Weir's interview on the LifeStyle Show with Taragh Loughrey-Grant where they discuss useful everyday Mindfulness tips to get us through those tough days.