What is 'Blue Monday' and can gardening help you avoid it?
'Blue Monday' has been dubbed the most depressing day of the year, so we've come up with a few ways to lighten the mood
With Christmas a distant memory, New Year's resolutions falling by the wayside and finances stretched to their limits, January can be a taxing month for our mental health. Here we look at 'Blue Monday' and give advice on how to use your garden or local green space to boost your mood when times are tough.
What is Blue Monday?
Dubbed the saddest day of the year, 'Blue Monday' is a term coined by travel company Sky Travel in 2005. They claimed to have used a formula taking into account weather conditions, debt and motivation levels amongst other factors to determine the day as the most depressing of the year.
The scientific basis of 'Blue Monday' has been dismissed by scientists as pseudoscience, however many people will feel that their mood is dipping as we reach the third week of January, so we've put together some activities to get you outside and stave off the sadness.
When is Blue Monday?
The day usually falls on the third Monday of January but sometimes falls on the second or fourth. This year, 'Blue Monday' falls on the 16 January.
Mood-boosting activities for Blue Monday
Get some daylight
It sounds so simple, but when the weather is all lashing wind and rain it can be difficult to force ourselves outdoors even though the benefits are so worth it. Just a wander around your garden or a walk to the local shops can be great for boosting the mood, even if you have to do so in wellies and rain coats.
Plus, it is important to remember that as we are past the Winter Solstice, the days are getting longer and lighter. On the 1 January we had 7 hours and 28 minutes of daylight, but by the 31 we will have 8 hours and 48 minutes. It may not feel like it, but we are hurtling towards brighter days.
Feed the birds
Feeding the birds is a great activity for boosting the mood on Blue Monday. January can be a tough time for wildlife as well as us, so giving birds a helping hand could give you a feeling of purpose and satisfaction.
It will also draw you outside to spend a few moments in your garden and provide you with feathered friends to watch from your windows for the rest of the day. If your garden is fully kitted out with a bird table, bird baths and feeders you'll be sure to have flocks of visitors. You could even invest in a bird-watching kit to keep you and the kids entertained.
Bring some greenery inside
Filling the house with greenery is a great way to lift the mood when we're spending more time indoors than out. You could try cutting some evergreen foliage from the garden to fill vases, or perhaps there might be some branches covered in early buds to be forced into bloom. In January try bringing in Forsythia or witch hazel.
Another great option is to head to your local garden centre and pick up a pot of forced Narcissus 'Tête-à-Tête', hyacinths or irises. Brought inside and placed in a warmer spot, they will start to grow and before you know it you'll have spring blooms brightening your living room in winter.
Look for signs of spring
Though it may not feel like it, signs of spring will be emerging by Blue Monday. The foliage of snowdrops and even daffodils will be poking up through the soil and buds will be appearing on barren tree branches.
It's great to go out for a walk at this time and look for these signs of spring to boost your mood. Whether a wander in your garden, a stroll in a nearby park or a full forest-bathing session, you're sure to feel the benefits of some time observing the changing seasons.
Although traditionally celebrated on the Twelfth Night, wassailing events take place throughout January and can be a great way to celebrate the month and remember things to be grateful for at this time of year.
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The purpose of a wassail is to encourage the spirits into providing a good harvest for the upcoming season and involves visiting an orchard for singing, dancing and drinking. They are a wonderful way to connect with other people and the earth in what can be a rather bleak month.
Search for wassailing events and you might find one closer to home than you think, as pubs and community farms often put on events too.
Once you've celebrated the upcoming season, why not head home and bake some spiced apple and parsnip muffins.
Planning your garden for the year ahead is a great way to stave off the Blue Monday sadness. Sit down with some seed catalogues, your laptop and a garden planner and start imagining the joy of growing in the months to come. We've rounded up some of the best places to buy seeds online to make things easy, and you can keep everything organised with one of our recommended seed tins.
The arrival of seed packets on your doorstep will be a sure reminder that spring is on the way and you'll be growing again in no time.
Do some small gardening jobs
As a gardener, Blue Monday can manifest as frustration. Frustration that the weather is too terrible to be in the garden, frustration that it is too early to sow seeds and frustration that little is looking its best. Although there are some small jobs that can be done in the garden at this time, there is no rush.
January can be used as a time for gentle tidying of garden sheds and casual pruning of roses and fruit trees on dry days. It should not be seen as a time to rush to sow seeds and get things growing; things sown now will not be any stronger than things sown in February. So when it comes to gardening this month, remember to take it easy.
Visit a garden
There are some wonderful gardens still open to visit at this time of year. We've rounded up 25 beautiful English gardens, many of which are open all-year round as well as seeking out the best gardens for winter walks. If you're hoping for a break from the cold, then perhaps head to a garden with glasshouses. The tropical biomes at the Eden Project in Cornwall and the glasshouses at Kew in London are bound to offer some respite from the winter weather.
It's also a great time to plan ahead for garden visits for events like snowdrop days and walks. These can be popular and sell out, so it is always wise to plan and book in advance.
Embrace having some downtime
Having some time to relax indoors doesn't have to be a bad thing. If you're finding yourself stuck at home on Blue Monday, try to embrace the peace and quiet.
Light some botanical candles to fill the house with the smell of warmer days and hunker down with a good book, perhaps a gardening classic or one of our current favourites to get you excited for the year ahead. We would also recommend reading an almanac for inspiration on things to look our for, particularly Lia Leendertz's Almanac and Alan Titcmarsh's Gardener's Almanac.
Blue Monday can be all about rest and recuperation for the year ahead. As our columnist Alice Vincent writes for the January issue of Gardens Illustrated 'Nothing can bloom all the time; we shouldn't expect the same of ourselves'.
Subscribe to Gardens Illustrated now for more words of wisdom and inspirational gardens to keep you entertained at this time of year.
Molly is the Gardens Illustrated's editorial and digital assistant. She has a roof garden and has her RHS level 2.