Welcome to Blue Monday - the most depressing day of the year
HELLO and welcome to the most depressing day of 2013 – no don't go straight back to bed, it's not as bad as all that, honestly.
Today has been officially designated Blue Monday, the bleakest date in the calendar, because we're all skint, it's cold and dark outside and we've got nothing to look forward to for ages.
The concept is based on an admittedly dubious equation devised by a psychology professor a few years back – which decrees the third Monday in January is always the most miserable day of the year.
The formula – comprising a number of variables including (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action – has largely been discredited as nothing but a PR gimmick.
Cheap Van Insurance For 17,18 & 19 Year Old Drivers - Call Insure365 01782 898188, Free Legal Expenses Cover Included Valued at £25.00!
Terms: 1 Voucher Per Customer
Contact: 01782 898188
Valid until: Saturday, June 22 2013
And yet most people agree with the sentiment expressed by the "Blue Monday" theory.
Stephen Joseph, professor of psychology, health and social care at the University of Nottingham is one of many experts who remains sceptical about the whole idea.
"I'm not sure there's even such a thing as Blue Monday," he says.
However, Professor Joseph does add there are plenty of good reasons for us to try and "cheer up" in terms of the effect on our health and wellbeing. "There's been quite a lot of research recently on positive psychology and how it can make people feel better generally," he said.
"One of the most important elements of this is the role of gratitude. People who feel grateful are happier, they sleep better and they are less prone to stress.
"I'm talking about people whose approach to life is to have a more grateful attitude rather than to dwell on bad things that have happened.
"What I would suggest is for everyone to take some time aside every day and reflect on things that have gone well.
"Maybe take just 15 minutes out to have a think about this and that would be a very good approach, especially at this time of year."
Of course, in these days of economic gloom, there is no denying that people are generally feeling more stressed.
And that can have worrying implications on health.
But stress needn't always be problematic, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
In small degrees, stress is a normal response and can actually be beneficial, such as making us perform better under pressure.
Certain situations trigger the release of stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol which, among other things, raise blood pressure and increase heart rate, preparing the body for "fight or flight".
With short-term, or "normal" stress, hormone levels will return to normal once a threat has passed. However, it's when stress is ongoing that it can develop into more serious mental health problems, like depression and anxiety disorders, as well as having a significant impact on physical health, which is why it's so important that stress is properly managed.
The Mental Health Foundation. has just published a new guide, How To Manage And Reduce Stress, on this subject, which is available to download for free from their website (www.mentalhealth.org.uk).
"Too many of us still aren't making managing stress a priority," says the foundation's chief executive Dr Andrew McCulloch.
"It's important to recognise the symptoms early to help figure out ways of coping, and save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods such as drinking or smoking."
Meanwhile, the official Beat Blue Monday website suggests ten things you can do to counter the effects of the most depressing day, including contacting a friend or relative, taking a break or being nice to a stranger.
Interestingly, though, when you click on the link, only nine suggestions appear. It's enough to make you really stressed...