24th Jan – The most depressing day of the year
A couple of years ago 24th January was
officially pronounced the “most depressing day of the year,” according to a UK psychologist,
Dr Cliff Arnall.
Dr Arnall’s, who specializes in seasonal
disorders at the University of Cardiff, Wales, created a formula that takes
into account numerous feelings to devise peoples’ lowest point.
He found that, while days technically get
longer after 21st December, cyclonic weather systems take hold in January,
bringing low, dark clouds to Britain. Meanwhile, the majority of people break
their healthy resolutions six to seven days into the New Year, and even the
hangers-on have fallen off the wagon, torn off the nicotine patches and eaten
the fridge empty by the third week. Any residual dregs of holiday cheer and
family fun have kicked the bucket by 24th January.
This year with the gloomy economic climate is
likely to be more depressing than ever.
psychology help to beat the blues?
Happiness and psychological well-being are
now serious areas of psychological research. Positive emotions have been linked
to increased well-being and engagement at work, while engagement at work is linked
to profitability, productivity, turnover, and customer satisfaction.
There are a number of techniques and
exercises which can be used to promote optimism and life satisfaction. Many
work by encouraging us to break our habitual negative thinking patterns and
concentrate on the positive.
Most people spend more time focused on what
has, or will, go wrong, than they do thinking about what has gone right for
them. We remember failures and things we have not been able to complete more
easily than we remember success. This is called the Zeigarnick effect. I bet
you can remember the last rude/mean/nasty thing that was said to you more
easily than you can remember your last compliment!
Critically it is this thinking style can
minimize life satisfaction and increase anxiety and depression. By challenging
this thinking style, we can reverse the trend!
to beat the January blues
As many of us have heard from our parent we
should ‘count our blessings’ this exercise helps us do just that. Martin
Seligman and others have devised and used a simple technique to address this,
called the three blessings exercise.
Every night before you go to bed, write
down three positive events from your day. These can be things that went well,
nice things that happened to you, or just things that you felt good about. They
can either be small and run of the mill – “my boyfriend put the heating so
that it was warm when I woke up”, or more important – “my mum’s
cancer scare turned out to be a false alarm.”
For each positive event, think about why it
happened. For example, did your boyfriend turn the heating on because he really
loves you and wants to make sure you are comfortable, or did he do it because
you reminded him that you would be getting up later than usual?
Once you have your list, chose one positive
event you would like to dream about.
Research shows that positive dreams increase life satisfaction and
consolidate the memories of good events, so it is worth the effort to try to
influence your dream content.
Doing the following will increase your
chances of having a positive dream:
a) Give the positive event a name (e.g.,
“my healthy mum”).
2) Visualise it.
3) As you go to sleep, say the name over
and over, visualise it, and intend to dream about it.
You might not be successful first time. Influencing
your dream can take practice. However, even without influencing your dream, research
shows that people who write down every day all the things for which they were
grateful, are not only happier than others, but are also more likely to take
exercise, get regular health checks and are more energetic, enthusiastic and
Louise Weston is a Business Psychologist at
Pearn Kandola in Oxford.
When Your Boyfriend Needs Space: Make Him Feel Challenged and He Will Chase You to Get You Back