On 18 January, it will be upon us. Brace yourself for Blue Monday, the third Monday of January – “the most depressing day of the year”, when we are all at our most melancholy, according to the psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall.
In 2005 a television publicist persuaded him to create a “scientific formula” that looked so spectacularly superscience-y that on a slow news day editors were powerless to resist.
It was: [W+(D-d)]xTQ/MxNA – where W is weather, D is debt, d monthly salary, T time since Christmas, Q time since failure of attempt to give something up, M low motivational level and NA the need to take action.
But with Blue Monday now an unstoppable PR juggernaut promoting everything in sight you could be forgiven for asking whether it is really possible to measure happiness.
Apparently, it is. Almost. And, said Glenn Everett, director of the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Measuring National Well-Being Programme: “The UK has done world-leading work on this.”
Natural ways to ward off 'blue Monday'
Natural ways to ward off 'blue Monday'
1/10 Depression Elixir by Les Fleurs de Bach
This new potion from Bach is a helpful tonic for sufferers of depression. Containing numerous flower essences including gorse, sweet chestnut and mustard, simply dilute three drops in a glass of water
2/10 St John's Wort by Solgar
This perennial plant extract is one of the most commonly used herbal treatments for depression. Available over the counter in the UK (but not in Ireland) you can take St John's Wort as a tablet, capsule, tea or tincture
3/10 SAM-e by Doctor’s Best
SAM-e, or S-Adenosyl Methionine, which occurs naturally in the human body can be taken as a supplement for treating depression because it is believed to increase levels serotonin and dopamine
4/10 5HTP by Higher Nature
A natural stimulator of the body's neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine) 5HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, can be taken as a natural alternative to anti-depressants. However, it is not suitable for those taking chemical mood enhancers such as Prozac and should not be taken by pregnant women
5/10 Gingko Biloba by Now Foods
Believed to support cognitive function, Gingko Biloba has been found to have beneficial properties in relieving depression or enhancing the effectiveness of other depression treatments. It is also thought to improve memory and blood circulation in the elderly
6/10 Echinacea Forte by A.Vogel
Echinacea purperea is widely used for its healing properties. As winter colds and flu are a common short-term cause of sluggishness and depression, taking Echinacea to sure up your body's defences is a good way to fight the onset of the blues
7/10 Astragalus Tincture by Organic Herbal Remedies
Astragalus root, also known as huang qi or yellow vetch, a great means of boosting your body's immune system, is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. A tincture with a herb to alcohol ratio of 1:3 should be taken in 2ml to 4ml doses three times a day
8/10 Ginseng and Royal Jelly Qi Nourishing Booster Liquid
9/10 Cinnamon extract by Nature’s Best
10/10 Triple Complex Mood Tonic by Native Remedies
ONS’s research started in 2010 when David Cameron launched his “well-being agenda”, seeking to judge policies on more than only economic criteria. ONS officials toured the land, asking 30,000 people what really mattered to them.
The ONS devised its “wheel of measures” of national well-being – 41 standards from unemployment rates to satisfaction with family life, to how satisfied people are with their lives and how anxious they were, all scored from 0-10.
And, beyond the work done by ONS, Britain’s contribution to the quantification of happiness is led by Professor Lord Richard Layard, of the London School of Economics, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report, so far published in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
It has global happiness rankings, based on scores for GDP, life expectancy, looks at whether people have someone to support them in times of trouble, at the freedom to make life choices and generosity, measured by relating charitable donations to per capita GDP.
Switzerland came top in 2015, the UK 21st.
Mr Everett argues, however, that while the World Happiness Report measured happiness, the ONS, measured “well-being” – which was something more fundamental and more permanent than an emotion.
“Happiness,” he said, “is a transient emotion. You could be satisfied with your life, but under a bit of stress right now and not very happy. Or you could have just won on the horses and feel pretty up, when overall, life isn’t going well.”
But, he said, when the ONS was gauging personal well-being, “We’re now on a very solid base.”
Which is more than can be said for Sky Travel, in whose name Blue Monday was concocted. The television station closed on 24 June 2010 – only six days after what Dr Arnall and his formula calculated would be the happiest day of that particular year.
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