Scientists are busy people. Not that I’ve ever had any reason to think otherwise or undermine their work, I should point out. It’s just that every day you can open up a newspaper or flick on the radio just in time to hear about a new study, most of the time about something significant and potentially groundbreaking but just as equally often to do with life’s little anomalies. Last week you couldn’t go long without being informed by a newsreader, television presenter or any other talking head of Blue Monday. The phenomenon has been around for a few years now and every mid-January is drudged up as a talking point in most areas of the media. It even has its own slightly complex written-down equation (although it is easier to break down to the untrained, unscientific mind than the vast majority of laws), but put most simply, Blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year – although given that there haven’t been many days in the year so far, it isn’t much of a grand statement to make. Pickiness and pedantry aside, the blueness is so not just owing to the colour you’re likely to turn if you spend even just a small amount of time out of doors in the chilly conditions but due to a number of disheartening factors that coincide with each other: low financial funds, festivities being an increasingly distant memory (with the likelihood of an empty social calendar thanks to lack of money), resolutions left in ruin and a general sense of gloom.
On discovering that Blue Monday has arrived, at first there may be nods and gestures of recognition. But when you’ve been bombarded by it from all sides, you’re not so sure that Blue Monday is quite so blue after all. To look simply at the technicalities, there’s lots to be cynical about; the fact that the Blue Monday equation was devised in perhaps rather a slapdash way and rumours that the work was commissioned by a travel company makes it not-so-scientific and more of an advertisers’ dream. Also, there’s not a lot of definitive agreement over when the fated day actually is: all the media talk this year suggested it took place last Monday but apparently today is in fact the ‘bluest’ Monday. Of course there’s a chance that it could be ‘one of those days’ – it always could be – but alternatively you might find it’s the complete opposite; you’ll catch that bus or train just on time, someone will give you a smile or unexpected compliment…things will generally be warm and fuzzy. Personally, I don’t find January to be that bad usually and the more I hear about Blue Monday the more I’m prepared to accept that it’s a whipped up PR exercise that has the potential to undermine the more serious issue of ongoing depression. Although, on the flipside, it could be argued anything that raises awareness of mental health issues – however finely honed and commercially motivated – is a good thing, and various organisations are utilising Blue Monday to full effect, encouraging people to take notice of their own wellbeing and that of others.
As the issues at hand are of extreme importance to us at The Reader Organisation, this week’s Featured Poem will hopefully give a reason to smile and think of life’s ‘loveliness’ in all its glory. Whether it really is Blue Monday is irrelevant; we don’t need a specific day to be roused, relieved, soothed, alleviated from a low mood by literature. It could, and should, be done whenever is appropriate – and sometimes when it’s not, just for the hell of it.
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)