January 18, 2021 is predicted to be the saddest day of the year so far, but it doesn't have to be.

Advertisement

Blue Monday is supposedly the "most depressing day of the year," happening on the third Monday of January, caused by a combination of post-holiday blues, guilt over abandoned New Year's resolutions, cold, overcast weather, and other equally dismal factors. This year, this particularly gloomy day strikes on January 18, 2021.

Should I be worried about Blue Monday?

The easy answer is no. Since 2005, the myth of Blue Monday has haunted the world, all thanks to an ad campaign from Sky Travel. For the campaign, U.K. self-described "psychologist, life coach and happiness consultant" Cliff Arnall helped develop an equation for calculating this most depressing day of the year—and Sky Travel used it to convince people that Blue Monday was the right time to plan a vacation to fight these winter doldrums. In the years since, Arnall has become an activist to #StopBlueMonday, and Blue Monday has become more of a gentle joke than anything else.

But a more accurate answer is that January is one of the coldest months of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, with brutal weather and gray skies, and living in quarantine can make it feel worse. All Christmas decorations have been taken down and stored away,and there are months to go until spring. While Blue Monday is merely a myth, the winter blues—a.k.a. seasonal affective disorder—are very real, and January's typically poor weather does nothing to help them.

So, whether you're falling prey to the Blue Monday myth or just feeling a bit of the winter blues, New York-based board-certified psychiatrist Margaret Seide, MD, shared five ways to feel better on Monday (and for the rest of the winter):

Plan something meaningful for the midweek

"We need to be less rigid and stop saving up all fun and entertainment for the weekend," Dr. Seide tells Health. "Planning something fun during the week will diminish the feeling of Monday to Friday being a painful wait until you can partake in pleasurable or stimulating events." Consider a virtual cooking class, a Zoom movie marathon with friends, or date night with your partner to keep you excited about the days beyond Blue Monday.

Ditch January-only routines

We've tried it all in the new year: new diets, breaking old habits, Dry January, etc. On Blue Monday, give yourself some grace when it comes to restriction to truly enjoy Blue Monday, even when it doesn't feel all that enjoyable. Dr. Seide recommends adding healthy habits slowly into your routine for prolonged progress rather than going all in, only to feel disappointed for breaking your new year resolution so quickly.

Practice hygge

This Danish expression—pronounced "hue-gah"—is all about creating a space and a lifestyle full of warmth and coziness, perfect for resisting the winter blues. Create a little hyggekrog—a cozy nook to enjoy coffee or tea and a magazine, creating those cozy, warm feelings you need to combat Blue Monday. Try warming, comfort foods like chili or stew to boost that cozy, hygge feeling to keep your spirits up.

Update your space

Your environment plays a huge role in your mood according to several studies in Environment and Behavior, so healthy home choices can make all of the difference. Refresh your bedsheets, switch up your throw pillows, or reorganize your bookshelf. Updating your space can lift your spirits and give yourself a much-needed feeling of renewal on one of the darkest days of the year.

Try a light therapy box

When you're missing the mood-boosting, vitamin D-giving sunlight absent from Blue Monday, store bought is perfectly fine. Light therapy is one of the main treatments for people with seasonal affect disorder, helping to make up for a lack of natural sunlight. Dr. Seide recommends sitting next to light therapy box for 30 minutes a day for improved mood during the winter.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter