Jan. 6, 2014 at 3:15 PM ET
So, you enjoyed too many delicious desserts, charged more Christmas gifts than you planned and accidentally revived an old family feud over the holidays? Maybe the dark days of winter have you down, or the trek back to work or school has you feeling blue?
Could any or all of that add up to make a single day — specifically today, Monday, Jan. 6 — the most miserable day of the year?
That’s the claim from British protein drink maker Upbeat, which says it analyzed more than 2 million tweets over the past three Januarys for negative language and phrases to conclude that today is “Blue Monday,” the “most downbeat day for Brits.”
“Tweets relating to feeling guilty are nearly five times higher than average on the first Monday in January as people head back to work and realize that all their good intentions have already been long forgotten,” the company says in a news release.
Maybe so, but it doesn’t make one day more miserable than the rest, experts say, echoing a debunking of the alleged phenomenon over the years. BuzzFeed calls the day, around since 2005 although later in January, “the media myth that just won’t die.”
“There is simply no science to support that statement,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and TODAY contributor. “The idea that you can cull negative words from tweets and then from that conclude that it is the most depressing day of the year sounds absurd from a science standpoint.”
Mondays in general usually aren’t great days for many people, especially after vacation, says Stephen Josephson, a psychologist in private practice in Manhattan who treats depression, but he too calls “Blue Monday” a myth.
“You could see where today would not be a great day,” he said. “People are down today but they’re also going to be down tomorrow.”
“Blue Monday” talk aside, there are issues that “some chunk of people will be struggling with this week,” Saltz said.
Winter, with its dark and short days, can be a problem for people who suffer seasonal affective disorder, which can cause serious depression. And certainly, people feel down after the excitement of holidays has come and gone, winter weather is lousy — or in some places, downright dangerous — and the bills start piling up.
“There are definitely people who feel that way, but other people who don’t feel that way at all,” Saltz said. “Most people are more responsive to their individual situations than the global particulars of January.”
While some people might gain five pounds after too many indulgent holiday dinners and parties, others may pick up the weight from beer and barbecues during the dog days of summer.
If you’re not feeling great, Saltz says that’s OK, and it doesn’t mean you’re depressed.
“Tell yourself you can feel down and be OK,” she said. “You don’t have to panic. If you feel not that great, little distractions can go a long way.”
Saltz urges regular, vigorous exercise and a good sleep routine if you’re blue. Talking with friends and family and feeling more connected can also help. Try listening to your favorite song or calling a friend who’s a good listener.
An evaluation for depression is in order if it’s been at least two weeks and you’re still feeling blue for a good part of the day, are having a hard time sleeping, have lost your appetite and are not taking pleasure in life.
As people tweeted away Monday with the #bluemonday hashtag, pushing products and good thoughts to help you feel better, Saltz urged caution.
“People should be careful not to feel they have to create blueness to feel they’re involved in whatever is supposedly going on,” she said.
And remember, not only do some people not feel blue at this time of year, but many feel good about the possibilities that a new year brings.
“There are people who feel like beginnings are very exciting,” she said. “They like the beginning of the year, they feel invigorated.”