Blue Monday

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Evidently, by tracking words used in social media spaces, a trend has emerged with Monday’s in January.  At some point, one January Monday will be the most depressing day of the year, a Blue Monday.

Several grim measures lead to this crushing nadir:

  • Perceived or real poverty after an expensive December
  • Hopelessness after failing to uphold New Year’s Resolutions
  • The return to 5-day work weeks and the reality of no paid holidays until May
  • High probability of germy sickness
  • Holiday weight gain
  • Relationship stress and the highest divorce rates of the year
  • Punishing weather and oppressive darkness
  • The Green Bay Packers lose the playoff wild card game ending their season

Its harsh out there people.  In the lyrics of The Shirelles, Mama Said There’d be Days Like This.  Or, in other words, Shit Happens.

Everyone needs a good coping mechanism to deal with the blues.  And, I’m talking about the regular blues, not the clinical ones which obviously deserve professional intervention. We all need a way to wake up on a cold, dark, January morning and find the ray of sunshine that can shine positivity into an otherwise bleak month.

Left to nature, my instincts tell me to deal with boredom, stress and the blues by eating all my favorite foods; pasta, cheese, cheese-on-pasta, side of garlic bread!!  But, for obvious reasons this is not the best approach.

It turns out that happiness takes effort. I can’t coast my way to bliss. I have to work at happiness the same way that I work at my career and work at my relationships.

For me, this means waking with the intention of having a good day. This intention can certainly get derailed and often does. Yet, when I start strong that momentum can carry me.  Little Orphan Annie sang that, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile” which echoes in my head as I walk out the door.

Happiness is contagious, or rather attitudes are catching. When you project positivity it also projects confidence and acceptance. When you bring your grump or frump to the office, others notice it too and it brings them down like a boat anchor. Debbie Downer the SNL caricature is so prevalent in our society that nearly everyone knows someone like her. But whether you are the Debbie Downer is entirely within your control.

Once, when I was in a particular funk, I read a book by Joy Behar, an impulse purchase made at the airport titled, When You Need A Lift: but Don’t Want to Eat Chocolate, See a Shrink or Drink a Bottle of Gin.  While the book was filled with mostly cliché ways to turn the frown upside-down, there was at least one piece of meaningful advice that I also wholeheartedly endorse: volunteer.

Nothing is as rewarding as doing something in your community with your own talent that helps others. If you are still blue after reading to kids at the library or helping a woman at the shelter write her resume, then something is seriously wrong. Using your abilities to make a difference for someone else is a special opportunity to warm your soul.

Sometimes unhappiness is the result of something significant like a hurtful or toxic relationship or a job you hate. In many of these cases you have the opportunity to make choices to minimize the influence of these downers, or get out altogether. While it is unlikely you will shed that nagging, critical mother-in-law (I’m not speaking from experience here, mine own MIL is a wonderful person), you can make small choices that will minimize the ways in which she can inflict her brand of pain on you.

I once met an unhappy woman who had an ambitious desire to lose weight, get a new job, find a boyfriend, save money, quit smoking and plan a vacation. This could mean she was unhappy about her weight, job, single status, bank account balance, health and wanted a relaxing break all at once.  Under the crushing pressure of all that change and ambition, success is not guaranteed. My best advice when there are multiple pain points is to prioritize. Pick what needs attention first, and move on as available.

I’ve read about the mythical exercise high and how addictive it can be.  I wish my body craved exercise in the same way it craves lasagna. (Herein lies my problem). For me, an exercise high remains elusive unless you count getting dizzy in Zumba…  Even though I have no chemical craving, exercise is a proven mood booster.  My friend in Wisconsin got out of bed yesterday in -16 degree weather to do a hot yoga class before work. Way to show that January Monday who is boss.

Beware, it’s risky out there. Experts predict 2014’s Blue Monday will strike on January 20th. When it arrives, or whenever you wake with the blues, set good intentions, spread good cheer, surround yourself with joyful influences, volunteer, prioritize and push yourself at the gym.  Take life off autopilot and choose happiness whenever possible.

After all, the happiest day of the year is right around the corner, in July.

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