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The Most Depressing Day of the Year?

by Dr. Jason Barker January 22, 2014

The Most Depressing Day of the Year?

Have you heard of blue Monday?  According to a specious calculation, blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year. The day typically falls on the Monday of the last full week in January. How were you feeling that day??

While blue Monday isn’t a real clinical phenomenon, it does tell us a lot about our moods and this particular time of the year. The factors that go into calculating when blue Monday occurs include the weather, time since the holidays, time since falling our new year’s resolutions, levels of motivation, and the levels of debt we accumulated over the holidays (the credit card bills are rolling in…).

And on a personal level, I would add days since I've been outside on my bike, or for a run not being completely decked out in winter clothing. While the weather in Colorado affords us year round opportunities to ride and run, there's something stifling about piling on the layers.

If this particular day is the most depressing of the year, then it makes sense that the days surrounding blue Monday are quite depressing as well.

While everyone’s mood levels differ for many reasons, it does make sense that many people will feel less than optimal at this time of the year (those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, that is).

So what can you do about feeling depressed during this time of year? If we go by the contributing factors above, it may be hard to ignore. However there are several ways you can improve your wintertime mood, helping you get through these days:

1. Early to bed, early to rise: Waking close to sunrise has been shown to help entrain our sleep cycles, and thus our mood. Shoot for sleep between 10pm and 6am to get the best effect.

2. Exercise: need we say it again? A little winter exercise will boost endorphins, which in turn lift mood. Moderate exercise has been shown to work as well as, and even better than, antidepressant medications in studies. I know most active and athletic types continue to exercise through the winter, and that's important. For those of you that fall of you're regimen, try to get moving again!

3. Mood Support is our best natural mood-enhancer; it works great for lifting spirits in people with mild to moderate depression - seasonal depression included.

4. 5-HTP lifts mood by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, one of our main neurotransmitters.  It can be taken throughout the day to help lift your mood.

5. Bright lights. Check out specialized lights that emit UV rays – put them in your bathroom so you get exposure in the morning hours.

Try some of these things if you’re feeling low this time of year. The blues don’t help your immune system either, so keep that in mind as well. At least Groundhog Day is coming up in early February and hopefully we’ll have an early spring!

Dr. Jason Barker
Dr. Jason Barker

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