January 24: The Most Depressing Day of the Year


According to Dr. Cliff Arnalls, a British psychologist with Cardiff University, a number of factors coincide to make January 24th the most depressing day of the year:

  • It’s dark. Not as dark as December 21st, the shortest day of the year, but dark enough to make our heads and bodies crave sunlight.
  • Christmas bills come due around this time, and – especially in this economy – that’s a harsh blow.
  • The minority of individuals who have kept their New Year’s resolutions begin to falter.

This axis of evil makes January 24th score lowest on the national mood barometer. In a twisted sort of way, that means I will feel good on January 24. Because I’m SUPPOSED to feel bad, which will create less pressure for me to feel happy, like say on the first warm spring day.

So do we stay hidden from the world under the covers? No. Try these tips for one day.

1. Watch the sugar.

People with depression and addicts need to be especially careful with sweets because the addiction to sugar and white-flour products is very real and physiological, affecting the same biochemical systems in your body as other drugs like heroin. According to Kathleen DesMaisons, author of “Potatoes Not Prozac”: Your relationship to sweet things is operating on a cellular level. It is more powerful than you have realized…. What you eat can have a huge effect on how you feel.”

2. Use a light lamp.

Bright-light therapy–involving sitting in front of a fluorescent light box that delivers an intensity of 10,000 lux–can be as effect as antidepressant medication for mild and moderate depression and can yield substantial relief for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

3. Wear bright colors.

I have no research supporting this theory, but I’m quite convinced there is a link between feeling optimistic and sporting bright colors. It’s in line with “faking it ’til you make it,” desperate attempts to trick your brain into thinking that it’s sunny and beautiful outside-time to celebrate Spring!-even though it’s a blizzard with sleet causing some major traffic jams.

4. Force yourself outside.

I realize that the last thing you want to do when it’s 20 degrees outside and the roads are slushy is to head outside for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. In late January and early February, when my brain is done with the darkness, I have to literally force myself outside, however brief because even on cloudy and overcast days, your mood can benefit from exposure to sunlight. Midday light, especially, provides Vitamin D to help boost your limbic system, the emotional center of the brain.


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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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4 Responses
  1. Shell

    Thank you for this , Therese. I had forgotten these key points and wondered (ever more anxiously) what was going on with me now. This winter season has been exceptionally brutal here in New England and all over. My usual excersize routine has become very chaotic. When there is chaos there ( a fundamental management tool for me) many other things become fragmented.
    Thank you for the info and reminders. Very comforting,