Each year for the past decade and a half, the third Monday of January rolls around like a morbid anniversary; ‘the most depressing day of the year’. Yesterday was in fact that very day: ‘Blue Monday’, named so ever since it was coined in 2005 by Sky Travel as a marketing ploy to get people booking their summer holidays.
In a weird twist of fate, whilst writing this article I realised (and subsequently giggled/cried at the irony) that two of my trips away over the last few years – to Rhodes in 2017 and Rome in 2018 – were booked on Blue Monday, and last year’s trip to Morocco (2019) was planned on Blue Monday with a group of friends whilst at a ‘Motivational Badge Making and Cocktail Evening’ that we trudged to after a day of dissertation research.
So, why is this particular Monday particularly blue?
Well, it’s no secret that Mondays are renowned for being the least favourite day of the week, at least for those lucky enough to have the traditional 9-5, five day a week job. For some reason, being forced out of bed at 6am after a weekend of lazing around or partying with your nearest and dearest leads to a whole load of begrudging, moody faces flooding the tube during the morning rush hour. The Monday blues are, from the look of things, very real.
But the third Monday in January? That’s a different story. Between the grey skies, the overdrawn bank accounts lingering long past the last glimmers of joy from the festive season have faded, and the pressures of a new year and failed resolutions, this Monday is proposed to be a whole lot bluer, hence ‘Blue Monday’.
Of course, saying one day is universally worse than another is complete nonsense. I actually had a lovely day yesterday, after a few days of not feeling so great. Others may have been having a bad day. Even Dr Cliff Arnall, who calculated Blue Monday as the most depressing day, has now said to ignore his conclusion which was based purely on pseudoscience.
Pinpointing a date and calling it ‘Blue Monday’ seems only to encourage a collective sense of melancholy. The concept is practically forcing everyone into believing “today is a bad day”. Personally, I’m a big believer in your outlook impacting how well your day goes. Waking up and saying “today is going to be terrible” will, nine times out of ten, lead to a terrible day. On the other hand, waking up with a positive mindset more often than not leads to a positive day. Don’t just take my word for it; as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said: ‘Why, then, ‘tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
Positive Action: How charities are turning Blue Monday into a day for mental health awareness…
Removing the capitalist origins (which I subconsciously bought into) and cynicism surrounding the history of Blue Monday, it is now adapted positively by many charities to bring light to initiatives to help those struggling with their mental health, or with diagnosed mental illnesses. Samaritans even renamed the day with their campaign, ‘Brew Monday’, encouraging people to take a breather, sit down with a cuppa, and have a good chat with someone, be it an old friend, family member, colleague or stranger.
I spent my Monday evening with another charity, Beder. The new charity – who have partnered with Samaritans and Young Minds – was founded in memory of Beder Mirjan, who passed away in 2017, after taking his own life aged 18. Beder aims to raise awareness around mental health, mental illness and suicide prevention, breaking down the stigma surrounding these subjects through exciting, unique and inspiring initiatives. One of the initiatives the charity has begun in it’s early stages is in partnership with MasterPeace Creative Studios – a drop-in art gallery in Belgravia – offering mindful and meditative painting & drawing experiences. Yesterday evening, as ‘Blue Monday’ drew to a close, I was lucky enough to join in (and, for the first time in three years, not spend £££££ on a desperate reach for joy via air travel and sunburn).
Beder and Masterpiece had already held one successful, sell-out event at the end of 2019, and last night’s second sell-out event was an experience everyone in attendance was grateful for. After a non-stop day and an overcrowded rush-hour tube ride, I crossed the road from Victoria Station into a peaceful oasis: the Beder and MasterPeace expressive painting and life drawing evening in Eccleston Yards, Belgravia. The charming setting of MasterPeace, in a small pocket of calm in Central London, immediately transported me from my hectic work-brain to feeling like I was truly about to take some time for myself and relax.
What I didn’t expect walking in was how friendly everyone would be. Not only was the evening relaxing, it brought together a warm, kindhearted, creative group of people who spent the evening chatting and laughing, and – at more focused times – in comfortable silence. Some people knew each other, others didn’t, but everyone was made to feel welcome, like part of a family.
After initial “hellos” and “hi, my name is…” moments, and being offered a lovely selection of refreshments, the session began with a short introduction from the founder of Beder, Razzak Mirjan. We then had a short mindful moment, eyes closed, concentrating on our breathing, our bodies, and emptying our minds. As someone who is usually quite anxious when faced with a blank canvas, this moment left me feeling lighter, less of the perfectionist I naturally am, and able to let myself create for the sake of doing something that was enjoyable and peaceful.
As a life-drawing amateur, I was slightly nervous that my efforts would be sub-par. But the great thing about this event was there was no pressure, no standard to reach, and no rules on your creativity. If you wanted to use a pencil, you could. Charcoal? Yep. Colours? Why not. The medium and style was your choice. Creatively, it was liberating, and mentally, it let you escape the pressures of life and just enjoy two hours of reflecting and relaxing.
Within the two hours, I had met some amazing new people, tried something new creatively, and decided I had a new-found passion – life drawing. The best part? The night was good for the mental health of those partaking, and it was supporting a mental health charity, Beder.
For Beder, the event was twofold, raising funds (all proceeds from tickets went to the charity) and awareness for an amazing charity and worthwhile cause, while also providing a calm safe-haven and creative outlet. All-in-all, the event was meaningful, thoroughly enjoyable and calming, and a great end to a not-so-Blue Monday after all!