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Blue Monday & Happy Lamps

If you know, you know. When I was much younger, my mother introduced me to "Blue Monday." The theory originated in the United Kingdom by Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, with actual scientific roots. According to Arnall, according to a 2009 excerpt from, Blue Monday was calculated using the following equation:

[W + (D-d)] x TQ

M x Na

W = Weather.

d = Debt.

T = Time since Christmas.

Q = Time since failing our New Year's Resolutions.

M = Low motivational levels.

Na = The feeling of a need to take action

Essentially, this convoluted formula identifies the third Monday in January as the year's most depressing day. The holidays are over, the weather still sucks, "new year, new me" is going down the toilet already, and weighty credit card bills are en route to doorstops worldwide. Even though the days are getting longer for most, many workers will work at sunrise and come home at sunset. Disclaimer - this theory applies only to those in the Northern Hemisphere. Enjoy your summer with the penguins, Argentina.


Most obviously, the scientific functions of the equation are questionable at best. Cardiff University sought to distance itself from Arnall after his initial release, and many more have publicly refuted the formula. However, it is hard to deny that typically, the third Monday in January each year is usually during difficult times. Therefore, it has been used externally for organizations in varying forms.

In Europe, this concept took off in many different directions. Flexible Thinking Forum, a not-for-profit organization, launched an award-winning campaign called "Beat Blue Monday." With the support of its public relations agency, GREEN Communications, Flexible Thinking Forum encouraged the public to challenge set ways of thinking. It is intrinsically powerful, as many of us are comfortable with cruise control.

Further, many travel groups used this to exploit a relatively slow travel season. After the holidays but before spring breaks, it is hard to fill planes for any carrier, regardless of the routing. Quick digression - the prices are usually killer if you can travel during this window!

Regardless of our thoughts, the attempt to identify the most depressing day of the year is somewhat admirable, particularly for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Blue Monday is a quirky attempt to shed some light on the worst time of year for those with the condition, myself included. For example, I would have a countdown clock in our Operations Center at my previous airport, making a big deal of each day that passes by.

Happy Lamps

I acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of us experience some depression symptoms when the sun goes down at 4 PM. However, everyone is wired differently, and some are affected particularly more than others. If you find this is a tough time of year for yourself, I have some ideas that may help.

  • Invest in a Light Therapy Lamp. Or, as I call them, "Happy Lamps." I may or may not be the proud owner of two, and I feel they help. Essentially, the lamps emit light to emulate natural sunlight. There are different variations, so weigh the pros and cons of other models.

  • Inhale Vitamin D. Okay, maybe don't "inhale" the bottle. But, speak with a qualified medical professional who can recommend the most efficient daily dose to supplement the deficiency we all are subject to during the shorter days of the year.

  • Stick to your routines. This is the time of the year when even the most strict of us fall into runs. Motivation free-falls, thus creating bad habits. My college coach (shoutout Cap) said many things that stick with me today, but one is that "if you stay thorough, you will never be in a rut for too long." Wise words, indeed.

  • Journal & plan your day. To keep your life forward-moving, use this time of year to bolster a habit of being infectiously organized. Plenty of unique journals are designed to appeal to our personalities. You must find the one you enjoy the most.

  • Travel. Historically, this is the time of year most of us pack it in for a month or two. But why? Just because it is cold? There is a world to explore! A quick, simple trip sometime in the early days of the year would go a long way in resetting the default depression that is sprung on us annually.

No matter your thoughts on Blue Monday, most of us will agree that we must make a slight "adjustment" to fine-tune our direction around this time. Not everything is linear - in fact, life is dynamic. Maintaining an internal locus of control is vital. However, we cannot deny that external factors often add major obstacles we must navigate. Let the light (of the happy lamp) shine through!

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