For over a decade it’s generally been accepted that the third Monday of January is considered the most depressing day of the year. It is also believed to be the day of the year that most people choose to take their own life. This Monday 20th January is supposedly this day.

Money trouble, debt, isolation, loneliness, failing to stick to new year’s resolutions and waiting for a pay day that seems to never come have all been quoted as reasons that cause a detrimental effect to our mental health in January.

In fact, some sources cite that suicides increase by 20% on New Year’s Day and by a whopping 35% in this one month alone. So what can we do to survive the New Year slump with our mental health intact?

Firstly, let’s have a look at whether these facts are indeed facts:

  • Is Blue Monday real?

Well, not officially. Whilst over the years scientists have come up with various calculations to prove that there is a definitive ‘most depressing day of the year,’ technically it’s a myth. The Blue Monday we think of as Blue Monday was actually a marketing stunt made up by a travel company wishing to increase their annual slump in trip sales in January. It worked – 14 years later and we’re still believing that Blue Monday is a thing.

  • Do suicides increase?

Yes and no – It is generally believed that suicides increase around Christmas time, but statistics show this to be untrue. Whilst many of us struggle with our mental health around a supposedly jolly time of year, suicides actually decrease at Christmas. Studies from 2016 showed that Christmas day was actually the day with the lowest suicide rate (9.2 suicides per day), with New Year’s Day the day of the year with the highest suicide rate (17.2 suicides per day) – so it’s not hard to see where such a steep percentage increase comes from.

Many other studies have shown that death by suicide can peak after just about any major event or holiday and statistics go up and down throughout the year, peaking the highest in Spring.

  • Are we really all depressed in January?

January can be depressing for some, but just because the media tells us we are all depressed, doesn’t mean we have to be. Whilst many people find January a struggle – waving goodbye to Christmas, parties, booze and food and dealing with a mountain of debt and bills – some of us view it as a new beginning and a fresh start. Some of us can actually find it a relief that the busy period is over and we can have a chance to relax and make plans for a new year.

Some people who feel depressed in January can even attribute their symptoms to Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately abbreviated to SAD) – also known as the Winter Blues. In which a lack of sunlight and being stuck indoors can cause seasonal depression. If you find that your mood goes up and down with the seasons, you could be suffering from SAD.

What can we do to enhance our well-being?

Whilst the above can highlight how the media and statistics can influence our mental state, it’s important to note that for some the January Blues can feel very real.

We’ve put together some tips to help you focus on your mental wellbeing all year round:

  • Make small resolutions that are easy to keep

As humans when a new year comes around we tend to set ourselves big, unachievable goals and then beat ourselves up when we fail. Instead, make small, achievable steps. I.e. If your new year’s resolution is to save money this year, why don’t you make smaller more achievable resolutions as part of this goal – such as saving up the money you would spend on takeaway coffee? Instead of committing to a set amount.

  • If you don’t keep your new year’s resolution – don’t beat yourself up

Try not to view it as a failure or a definition of your self-worth, almost half of all new year’s resolutions fail so you are definitely not alone. In fact, ‘failure’ can be a positive thing and shows that you tried something new and had the guts to make a resolution in the first place. Instead of focusing on the negative, turn it into a positive – look at why you didn’t keep it and think of a new plan of action instead. 

  • Make time for your mental health

Many of us like to focus on and take pride in our physical well-being – we eat healthily and visit the gym, but we don’t often make the same amount of time for our mental health. This year, why not make healthy steps towards your mental well-being by taking up meditation or mindfulness – there are lots of great apps and books out there to get you started.

  • Set yourself new goals and targets – or don’t

Many of us feel better when we are organised and have specific, measurable targets to achieve – but don’t set yourself up for a fall. And don’t feel like you have to have make targets and goals if your mind doesn’t work that way. Instead, think of at least one thing you would like to achieve this year, whether it’s to read a new book every month or whether it’s to learn a new hobby – and make it fun.

  • Try light therapy

If you think that your symptoms are more attributable to SAD, try investing in a light therapy box. These special lamps are designed to mimic sunlight, helping to alleviate the symptoms caused by SAD and can cost anywhere between £30-£150.

  • Practise gratefulness

Gratefulness helps us to appreciate the things we have and causes us to focus on the positive aspects of our lives. It can help improve our self-esteem and overcome traumatic or stressful events by expressing what we are thankful for. Start by writing down three things you are thankful for every morning – whether it’s something as simple as just waking up, to the breakfast you’re about to eat.

  • Keep a record of all the things you have learned

It’s always easier to focus on where we are going when we know how far we’ve come. By keeping a journal of things you have learnt you are able to see how much you have grown as a person, promoting feelings of self-worth and improving your self-esteem. It can be something as simple as a random fact you learnt that day to a life lesson in love; to understand that we are always evolving is key to knowing that things can change for the better.

  • Keep a happiness journal

A happiness journal is something that prompts us to look for the happiness in each day. You can keep your happiness journal as a daily or weekly write up, or when you are feeling sad use it as an opportunity to reflect on the things that make you happy. Use it to write lists of what makes you happy, your favourite songs, your favourite things to do or your favourite places to visit, and be sure to look back on it whenever you need a boost.

Still not feeling it? Here's who you can speak to:

If you are feeling suicidal or having thoughts of harming yourself, there is always help available.