I keep reading in the media that January 17th is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year–Blue Monday.
Apparently there have been studies done, and January 17th has been authenticated as Depression D-Day. And the advice I keep seeing is to stay at home, hide in bed and eat chocolate.
It’s things like this that remind me why the media itself is so complicit in the depression epidemic that has been such a distinguishing factor of modern society.
The media feeds us a dream of “happiness,” and so long as we can continue to buy that dream, we are allowed to operate on the belief that maybe one day we will be totally and endlessly happy, and if we can’t obtain that goal–which, of course, no one ever can–we are presented with a thousand temptations to make up for our lack of happiness.
Can you see how this might form a very solid base for an entire culture based on addiction?
The good news, though, is that we don’t have to buy into this vicious circle. Blue Monday is a good time to think about how to break away, or to stay away.
So, how can we deal with the most depressing day of the year? My first suggestion is to go right into it. Do NOT stay home and throw your own pity party. I say we should do our best to make Blue Monday a day to be mindful and take the opportunity to employ the practices that not only get us through any regular day, but the practices that we know will increase the value and depth of our lives.
What might this practice look like?
First, if you do feel sad on Monday, and you want to feel sad, then just do it. You are allowed! Do not beat yourself up for feeling the human emotion of sadness. It is natural–in fact, it is unhealthy to avoid sadness. The Buddhist concept of samsara reminds us that our human experience is going to include a continuous flow of a whole range of experiences, including sadness. I invite you to just say that being sad is okay for the time being. It will pass. The seeds of your happiness are sown amongst your harvest of suffering.
Second, if you are up for it, this Monday might be a good opportunity to exercise your spiritual and emotional self to push through sadness and embrace the happiness, strength and healthy pride that is your birth-right as a human being.
Wake up on Monday–on any day!–and look out your window at what is before you and say, “Universe, keep me full and over-flowing. Thank you!” Or, look at yourself in the mirror and with your best possible smile plastered to your tired mug, say something like, “Today I choose to put my best foot forward.” Make a choice to set the tone for your day–and make a mindful effort to carry that tone forward with you throughout the day. I know this is easier said than done, but it is called a practice for a reason. Do your best, and if you can’t follow through on this during every minute of the day, that’s okay too, because no one can.
Third, make a list of things you can do for yourself that will deepen the sense of gratitude and value that exist for you in life. This list is very personal and can range from the silly (random example: committing yourself to watching a YouTube video of Richard Pryor on Sesame Street: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO3M60RO7rk) to the more serious, such as writing a letter of gratitude to a loved one. Or perhaps taking five minutes to write a letter of gratitude to yourself.
Here are some other suggestions you might consider for your Happy List:
- Listening to a happy, up-beat song you haven’t heard in ages
- Reading a poem or passage from a book that once sent chills down your spine
- Pulling out an old photograph of something or someone that makes you smile
- Helping a stranger in some small way, perhaps by complimenting their nice sweater or new shoes!
- Making a donation (of any kind) to someone or some place that needs it
- Do some form of physical exercise
- Say the word “love” to someone and/or to yourself–say it ten times, say it one hundred times!
- Find time to meditate or pray or sing, whistle or hum–if you can manage all at the same time, then you know your day must be going well!
The things on your list do not need to be elaborate. In fact, I would suggest keeping them simple. If you can’t think of anything, or the things on your list just don’t seem to be working, then perhaps you can just take a deep breath in a quiet moment and be thankful that you have that breath, that it is there to remind you that just like the very rhythms of the universe itself, whatever you are experiencing in your life at that very moment, will come and go…and that is okay just in the moment of now.
Thank you for reading.