I woke up this morning feeling down–but for good reason. It is the fourth anniversary since losing a dear friend to the beast of cancer. Her daughter and only child is like a younger sister to me, so the heaviness in my heart is two-fold. And yet, I hold onto a small comfort in knowing I am not alone in my feelings of depression.
Many people do not realize that today is considered Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. Why?
From research and interviews I conducted when I wrote Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I believe there’s a myriad of reasons.
- For some, it’s winter, where short days and gray skies cause a depletion of the feel-good hormones the brain needs to help us combat depression and anxiety. Plus, cabin fever sets in when it’s cold outside and there are fewer activities to help us fight boredom.
- Most people tend to be less physically active between November and February. Without exercise keeping our blood pumping, our brains and bodies get sluggish and sad.
- People are more prone to watch live feeds and breaking news on their TVs and devices when they are less active. And we are definitely living in a bad news time period, so just listening to the doom and gloom is enough to throw anyone into a spiral.
- Between unusually high food and gift costs spent during the holidays, plus year-end tax bills and incoming credit card statements, many people struggle to make ends meet in January.
- Resolutions may already be wavering for some, or they feel a sense of failure after finding they’ve already returned to unhealthy habits.
- For some, a sense of deep loneliness returns, as family and friends go back to their daily routines, forgetting that not everyone has things on their calendar every day. If a person does not belong to groups such as churches, civic organizations, or volunteer agencies, they can feel all alone with no sense of purpose.
- Because the holidays magnify grief, those in mourning feel an even deeper sense of loss that lingers long past the holiday season. If they lost their loved one near or during this season, the pain feels even greater.
- The holidays slow down and even stop some business productivity. Striving to regain momentum is difficult and stressful for many employees and their leaders. By mid-January, frustrations and discouragement can run high due to a lack of synergy steam amongst the team.
- In January, some people review their lives and focus on mistakes instead of successes. They lose sight of all the victories they’ve won and goals they’ve met, forgetting to take time to celebrate the good or even great.
- Many of us set a subconscious expectation that “this will be the year,” but if old problems do not quickly go away, we can lose our sense of hope and feel like giving up. What’s-the-point-itis can steal our joy AND potential, if we aren’t careful.
So what can we do to comabt the Monday blue? Take a 180 degree approach in any areas from this list.
- Affirm yourself with truth. The affirmation I share below reminds me of who my Maker says I am, versus believing the lies my emotions might whisper to my mind.
- If you are inactive, do what I do. Throughout your day, air-box, walk around the room, dance, skip, or run in place, for one minute intervals. You’d be surprised at how much your mood lifts from just a little periodic movement–it works great during bathroom breaks.
- Turn off the bad news and write down at least three things you are grateful for today. This daily practice often turns my frowns upside down.
- Set a goal to reduce spending and to start knocking down at least one debt. Taking control of your finances, even if you have to do it in tiny baby steps, will help you feel better. If anxiety about your bills or anything else is eating you up inside, I highly recommend my friend, Caris Snider’s book, Anxiety Elephants: A 31 Day Devotional to Help Stomp Out Your Anxiety.
- I no longer make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I focus on a single word as a lens that I look at my life through (I don’t choose my word, I actually let God choose it for me.) I’ve been doing this for years now, and it’s life-changing. Past words have included: joy, detox, rise, shine, peace, relationship, discipline, play, and others. Last year, my word was value. This year, my word is freedom, and so far, I’m not only feeling refreshed, but I’m learning a lot about myself.
- Getting involved with others who gather is a great way to combat loneliness, especially if it’s a mission-minded group. My church family provides amazing support and purpose that makes me feel loved and mindful all year long. I wrote, Exceedingly: Spiritual Strategies for Living on Purpose, with Purpose, and for an Abundant Purpose, because I meet so many every day people who need reminders that they can and should make the difference they were made for, exactly where they are.
- If you are mourning, let yourself feel the pain. Don’t try to hide from it or bury it–face your grief. By dealing with it now, you will prevent even greater pain later.
- Be patient with yourself and others. Remember, good things take time and great things take even longer. Continuously ask yourself and others what next best step makes the most sense, then focus on that. Do not let overwhelm or discouragement cause you to halt forward progress.
- Set goals, but don’t rush past your accomplishments. Celebration is a necessary part of any achievement.
- Invest yourself in others–do not get stuck in self-focus. If someone crosses your mind, send them an encouraging note. Write a text, email, or old-fashioned but very powerful snail-mail. It’s not the delivery system that matters as much as your willingness to do something small that could change a life in amazing ways. Encouragement is a great depression-buster.
As you can see, there are many reasons Blue Monday is real, but it doesn’t mean we have to let it steal our joy. With a little intentionality, we can turn blue into something much brighter. The difference starts with you!