Helmut Schmidt, Published January 19 2014
Is today really the most depressing day of the year?FARGO - If you think this is absolutely the worst day you’ll have this year, you could be right.
Today is, by the reckoning of modern-day pseudoscience, The Most Depressing Day of The Year.
Christmas bills are arriving.
Holiday fun is in the rearview mirror.
New Year’s resolutions have gone south, and you’ve gone pear-shaped.
The weather is cold, snowy, icy, gloomy.
Feel like crawling back under the covers yet?
In 2005, psychologist Cliff Arnall, who was a tutor at Cardiff University in Wales, was credited/blamed with creating a formula he said pinpointed the most depressing day of the year as the third Monday of January.
According to Wikipedia, the formula is the ratio of W (weather) plus D (apparently nobody in the Wiki world knows what that stands for), minus d (debt), times T (time since Christmas) with the exponent Q (time since failing our New Year’s resolutions). That’s all divided by M (low motivational levels) times N with a funky “a” hanging halfway beneath it on the right side (feeling the need to take action).
Reputable scientists have said the formula fails to make “mathematical sense” and is “farcical” with “nonsensical measurements.”
To which the rest of us say: Hey, math is hard!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a really bad day if today didn’t have a competitor – Jan. 6 – trying to take away its mojo.
That attempt was fostered by nutrition drink maker Upbeat and it’s “Upbeat Barometer.” The measure analyzed tweets in the Twitterverse for negative words and phrases to get an idea of happiness in Britain.
An analysis of more than 2 million tweets over three years – waaaay too much overthinking if you think about tweets – pegs Blue Monday as the first Monday in January. This year, that was Jan. 6.
The Forum, however, feels the fake formula we’ve staked this story on, like Classic Rock, is way cooler.
The traditional Blue Monday even gets support locally from someone who knows what they’re talking about!
“I would say given some of those things he’s talking about, he’s absolutely right,” said Rachel Blumhardt, the Employee Assistant Program clinical supervisor and counselor at The Village in Fargo.
“I think you have something there,” she said. “Oftentimes, people spend beyond their limit during the holidays.”
There’s also stress in families as in-laws and family members grate on each other’s nerves. Spouses bide their time through the holidays, trying to avoid hurting children, relatives – even the spouses they’re thinking of kicking to the curb, she said.
Take away sunlight and exercise, and toss in drinking or drugs and related problems such as DUIs, and the brew gets more toxic.
Still, given the climate in the Red River Valley, Blumhardt would make one important change. She’d push Blue Monday into March.
“Weather plays a huge impact on people’s mood. Definitely the late spring that we had last year affected people,” with more depression and anxiety disorders cropping up, she said. “If I were to set up Blue Monday, I’d pick the third Monday of March. It’s spring, but there’s still a lot of snow.”
Even one of the area’s perpetually perkiest people – Penny Andrist, owner of the Penny and Pals children’s music and performance company – has a tough time with the depths of winter,
And this is a woman who has the phrase “And don’t forget to have some wigglin’, gigglin’ and singin’ in your day!” on her telephone greeting.
“I am not a big fan of winter. I have more of an adjustment period” early on, Andrist said.
Where Andrist thinks people let themselves down is “that they stop doing the things that make them happy.”
“I try to remember that I love music. Just because I’m not around children, doesn’t mean I can’t sing and dance,” Andrist said. “We need to remind ourselves about that and be kind of intentional about that sometimes.”
Fargo’s crown prince of flood fighting, Mayor Dennis Walaker, on the other hand, is looking forward to a great day today.
“We’ve probably got the shortest agenda in eight years on the city commission agenda on Monday night. Is that a good deal? I’d say it’s a good deal.”
He also put his wife on an airplane to spend time with their daughter in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“She was happy. She was ready to leave,” Walaker said.
And as any married man can tell you, a happy wife means a happy life.
Meanwhile Magdalene Chalikia, chairwoman of the psychology department at Minnesota State University Moorhead, said the idea of picking Jan. 20 as the year’s worst day is kind of silly.
“Why not in December?” she asked.
She said seasonal affective disorder plays a role in depressing moods, but linking other problems to a particular date is something that is cringe-worthy.
Still, she says she, too, will be tempted to hit the snooze alarm and pull the bedcovers over her head today.
“I’ll do that, because it’s a holiday for us,” she says.
It’s Martin Luther King Day, she said.
And then she laughed.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583