More NewsThe impact of Blue Monday, and how this can be prevented

The impact of Blue Monday, and how this can be prevented

With Blue Monday upon us, we look at the science behind this, and what HR leaders can do to tackle these issues.

The third Monday of January, named ‘Blue Monday’ has been labelled as the ‘Most depressing day of the year’. How accurate is this date and has this been proven to live up to its reputation? Paul Allen, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience comments on the science behind this.

He said “Blue Monday is claimed to be the day of the year when people supposedly feel at their lowest. But is there any science behind this? According to psychologist Cliff Arnall, there is a formula that proves this, combining factors like the weather and post-Christmas debt to explain feelings of sadness and low mood.”

He went on to discuss what factors play a part in influencing this mood, saying “The limited amount of daylight in January is likely to be a factor. Low levels of ultraviolet light from the sun can exacerbate low mood in some people. Scientists are beginning to understand that the link between low levels of sunlight and low mood is mediated by the skin’s production of vitamin D, which requires ultraviolet light. Importantly, it is thought that serotonin, a neurochemical involved in regulating mood, requires vitamin D for its production. So increasing our exposure to ultraviolet light or vitamin D could help beat the winter blues.”

So it is clear that there are some factors that play a part in the low morality, but how can HR leaders do their best to prevent this low mood continuing throughout the month. Chris Gray, Brand Leader at  Manpower UK commented on ways that this can be prevented, saying

The working environment must be a place where employees can feel confident, empowered and motivated to reach their potential. To avoid “Blue Monday blues” employers must take stock and remind staff why their work and input is so valuable to the business.”

In addition to this, he discussed that staff must invest more time and resources into career development and training going forward, this will aid their workforce to feel more valued.

“Offering them the chance to move around different departments will also enable them to work with a variety of teams, which increasingly, employees are looking for in their role. It’s also important to make them feel part of the success of the organisation and allow them to contribute ideas.”

Paul finished by discussing additional effects that this day can bring, saying “Another factor affecting our mood at this time of year may be our tendency to cut out certain foods and alcohol – just think of ‘Dry January’ or ‘Veganuary’. Whilst longer-term abstinence from alcohol has been shown to reduce the feeling of anxiety and depression and there are clear and obvious health benefits associated with cutting out calorific food, reducing food and alcohol intake may not do much for our mood in the short term. That’s because cutting out or stopping rewarding and pleasurable behaviours may affect the brain’s dopamine system resulting in reduced positive emotions. Luckily, the brain’s reward system can be stimulated by other behaviours such as exercise, so maybe it’s time to renew that gym membership.”

With research from Staples finding that the lack of employee enthusiasm in January estimated to cost the UK economy £93 billion, in their report ‘In Pursuit of Office Happiness’, Staples has found that happiness in the workplace has a major impact on employee productivity and all-around mental wellbeing – and too many employers are failing to keep their workers happy. Because of this, it’s important for business leaders to tackle this issue all year round, instead of addressing this only on Blue Monday.

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