With the introduction of Social Media, the number of what is known as “awareness days” has skyrocketed. Whatever your interest, whatever you are into, there is a day tailored to your niche. As a runner I am well aware that the first Wednesday in June is Global Running Day. It’s inauguration was on June 1st, 2016. That day saw more than 2.5 million people from 177 countries pledging to run more than 9.2 million miles.
Some awareness days predate social media by decades. One such day that resonates with me is National Bike to Work Day held every third Friday in May. It was originated by the League of American Bicyclists in 1956 to encourage biking as an alternative to driving to work. Today, the observance is part of National Bike Month which helps to raise awareness of “commuting without polluting”. And, with more people working at home during the pandemic, emphasis is also being put on #BikeThere — or short “bike hikes” to Starbucks or errands to the local home-office supply store!
And then there is Blue Monday, held every third Wednesday in January. This day actually started as a public relation stunt in 2005 by a British travel agency to try to get the public to book their vacations with that agency. They cited psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall’s mathematical formula that pointed to the third Monday in January as the most depressing day of the year. Dr. Arnall came up with this formula years ago while working as a tutor at Cardiff University. One of many factors is the weather at this time of year. Freezing and gloomy outside doesn’t bode well with many people here in the Northern Hemisphere. Then there’s the realization that the holidays are over, along with the festive cheer and the temporary high that they provide. New Year’s resolutions are often broken by now. There are generally lower motivation levels and feeling a need to take action.
Blue Monday hit it off, but for the wrong reasons. Thus it has become very controversial. Some retailers, both online and in the real world, even use Blue Monday as a stage for quick sale, offering special discounts for 24 hours to help people beat the blues with “retail therapy” by grabbing bargains. Mental Health issues aren’t something that gets worse on one mid-January day. They can happen all year round. So can feeling blue. The science behind Dr. Arnall’s formula is frequently questioned and highly scrutinized for possibly trivializing depression. One of Arnall’s university colleagues, Dr. Dean Burnett commented, “There is no such thing as a 24-hour depression”.
Dr. Arnall mentioned “He’s now on a mission to prevent from further spreading the self-fulfilling negativity that Blue Monday has unleased”. In an interview with The Independent newspaper Dr. Arnall said that it was “Never his intention to make the day sound negative”, but rather “To inspire people to take action and make bold life decisions”. The Scottish Sun mentions that “Dr. Arnall, now runs happiness and confidence sessions for celebrities and businesses, giving numerical ratings to “misery factors” like Christmas bills, failed New Year resolutions, winter weather woes and low motivation”.
It may be called “Blue Monday”, but for me some really cool things happened on this 3rd Monday of January. First of all I am back on my crossing guard duties. This pandemic has been very hard on my mental health. With schools becoming closed numerous times, I’ve actually lost count the number of times I’ve been layed off temporarily as a crossing guard. And the number of times the church I lay pastor has closed. The church is still a question mark. Even though my return date was a blustery stormy day, which closed the schools on my 1st day back, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face that I am returning as crossing guard.
The second “Blue Monday” item is I registered for an ultra. With our planet in a Climate Crises, I could no longer justify driving 200-300 kilometers each way to run a race. With public transit non-existent in some areas & not even coming close to within twenty kilometers for other venues, I was actually wondering if my ultrarunning days would be over. The ultra I signed up for is a brand new race called Rainbow Trail Run held in beautiful Earl Rowe Provincial Park. I signed up for the 96 kilometer distance. I’m very excited. Being a 70 kilometer drive from home, it’s still not ideal. But much closer than all the other ultras. And I’m really going to try and carpool with someone to cut my travel footprint in half.
As an environmental advocate, this past year has been incredibly unsettling. In Canada we saw record setting heatwaves. There was out of control wildfires and heavy flooding. Both of which obliterated communities. In December my area in Ontario experienced extremely erratic weather, with unseasonably warm temperatures, heavy rain and major windstorms. Much of the weather and climate experienced by communities in the Great Lakes is driven by the seasonal behavior of the lakes. I live in a snow belt region on the lee of the Great Lakes (the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth). In December we will normally get hammered with lots of snow, as a result of cold air gathering moisture off of the warmer Great Lakes. By the time Blue Monday rolls around mid-January the lakes are quickly freezing over. With ice capping the lakes, that enormous snow making machine shuts down. Although we do get some snow in February and March, there are numerous bright, beautiful, crisp sunny days. Such a gorgeous time of year. Winter did get off to a rocky start, and this past week we had a nice stretch of cold weather. Which is normal here in Canada in January. Although the Great Lakes are far from being frozen the way they should be, the steady cold temperatures is making up for lost time. Great news for sure on Blue Monday. These are my three good news items on what is supposed to be the gloomiest day of the year. Let’s use this day to look at the positives. As well as using this day to become better versions of ourselves.
Do you have any good news items to share for Blue Monday, supposedly the gloomiest day of the year?