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Blue Monday may not be real – but the winter blues are

The widely-held belief that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year all started as a marketing ploy.
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As many as 15 per cent of Canadians experience the "winter blues."

While feelings of sadness are common this time of year, don't blame your Monday miseries on Blue Monday - blame it on the winter blues.

The concept of Blue Monday – which claims the third Monday of January is the most depressing of year – was actually a marketing strategy by a flight company to increase their sales in January, according the Canadian Mental Health Association.

And this year, Blue Monday falls on January 20.

That's not to say the dead of winter doesn't bring about feelings of melancholy, Dr. Caroline King, president of the Medical Psychotherapy Association of Canada, says. 

The reasons for experiencing what are considered the "winter blues" can vary.

"I think it's a combination of things," she says. "We're less active, if the weather is bad we're very isolate, maybe we're eating more or drinking a bit more alcohol."

But one of the main things that could be affecting our mood is the lack of sunlight that comes with wintertime.

In fact, Ottawa has only experienced 21 hours of bright sunshine so far this year, weather historian Rolf Campbell tweeted Sunday.


And while anyone can get the winter blues, King says it's women who are more likely to experience them.

But knowing the difference between the winter blues and clinical depression is important because it could mean medical attention is needed.

"Feelings and symptoms can be similar including changes in appetite, decreased motivation, changes in sleep patterns, low mood, difficulty concentrating, among other symptoms," King explains. "But the key differences are duration of the symptoms, the severity and the ability of the affected person to function."

Basically, she says, with clinical depression, the feeling will last weeks or months – but with normal mood fluctuations, they are usually brief.

Clinical depression can happen at anytime of the year, and despite beliefs, King says the highest rate of depression is in the early spring and early summer – not during the winter.

Even with the lack of science, King see Blue Monday can be used as another opportunity to shine the line on mental health.

"It's a good opportunity to talk about the difference between normal mood fluctuations – especially in winter – and depression," she says. "That's always a good thing."

If feelings of depression persist beyond a couple of weeks, King avises to reach out to your family doctor.


About the Author: Dani-Elle Dubé

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