So today is Blue Monday, the most miserable day of the year. Do you believe that? Really, really, believe it? Well, Dr Cliff Arnall says it and Dr Arnall is an “ologist” (a psychologist, to be precise) and what an “ologist” says must be true, mustn’t it? And to cap it all, the good doctor is not just saying this off the top of his head, oh no: he has worked it out with mathematical equations. Case closed, would you say? Here, check it for yourself in The Independent
I’m sorry but when people come along with these one-size-fits-all simple explanations for complex phenomena, I begin to smell a rat. It’s all just a little too pat, too all-explanatory, too… well, let me just say that I detect a whiff of snake oil.
I would like to know what research the good doctor did and how he did it and what his control groups were. Now, I am not saying he didn’t do research or set up control groups. Maybe that stuff is just too boring for the media to mention so they skate over it. And we do have these mathematical equations, don’t we? Would it be just too cynical of me to query whether you can really predict the emotional climate of a whole population, individually and collectively, with equations? Doesn’t that sound a little like astrology?
But the good doctor does have powerful allies. For example, there is Phillip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association for Counselling. (Please, no wisecracks about counsellors, I’m trying to be serious here.) Philip Hodson backs up the good doctor, doesn’t he? Well, not exactly. He says that “The worst day has got to be a Monday – there is other evidence to show it is the worst day of the week.” Er, quite, but I think we knew that. And he says “a Monday”, not “Monday Jan 21st” (note that the Independent account got the date wrong, by the way). Not quite a ringing endorsement.
But then we have the unapostrophed “Samaritans spokeswoman” Kate Redway, who confirms that people do indeed feel miserable around this time though what she actually says is “this time of year can be particularly difficult” (my emphasis). I don’t see “Monday Jan 21st” in there or even “Monday”.
Never mind, assuming that there is something to the story, the good doctor provides a remedy. In sum, he says
It’s a very important thing and – if there was one message that I’d like people to take today to help them – it is to spend some time on this positive type of thinking. People who do it often do it for far longer than the period of the exercise – and feel happier as a result.
Let me see if I have got this right: If you are in a bad mood, then the remedy is to do something to put yourself in a good mood? Well, I never. I’d never have thought of that.
“Blue Monday” is a good tag, isn’t it? It’s striking and easy to remember. I bet that all over Britain today people are talking about it in their workplaces: “Oh, so that’s what’s wrong with me; I should’ve known.” It’ll catch on. The media have already taken it up. And that, my darlings, is just the problem. When people come out with these theories and the media take them up, they are swallowed by a public that never stops to ask questions. Remember MMR.
If you want to believe in Blue Monday, go ahead and believe in it. As beliefs go, it’s one of the least harmful and if it makes you realize that you can change your mood for the better by putting your mind to it, then maybe it will do you some good. Personally, I’d rather think of it as Red Monday because red is my favourite colour and makes me feel optimistic and cheerful.
Happy Red Monday!