Although it's known as the most depressing day of the year, one expert says it's important to know the difference between the Blue Monday blahs and depression.

There's no scientific proof of Blue Monday's effect on your mood, but shorter days and chilly temperatures can cause many Albertans to feel down around this time of year.

But feeling down and feeling depressed are two different things, said Mara Grunau, executive director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention.

"I think a lot of us ... find January to be blah. We're looking at another four months of winter, Christmas is over. But that's not depression, and we don't want to trivialize people who are experiencing clinical depression," Grunau said.

"Depression is there whether it's January or July. People who experience depression are feeling it all the time. Whether the circumstances around you are bleak or cheery, you see it as bleak."

Bouts of depression can occur year-round 

Grunau said suicide rates and depression don't go up in January, but remain stable all year long. While exercise and other means of self-care can help ease the seasonal blues, it's not as easy of a fix for people who are experiencing depression, Grunau said.

"If you're already depressed, and depression is taking over your life in the sense that it's impacting your day-to-day activities, (for) those people experiencing that, telling them 'go for a run' is really insensitive," she said. "It's bigger than that, it's more complex.

"If you're worried about someone in your life, encourage them to seek help or seek help on their behalf."

Edmonton psychologist Dr. Ganz Ference said the term Blue Monday originated in the United Kingdom as a way of increasing awareness of mental-health issues, depression and seasonal affective disorder.

As winter drags on, Ference said it's important to focus on doing things that make you happy — this can include socializing, exercising, eating nutritious foods and making time to get outside on a sunny day.

"Cut yourself a break, take your time and pace yourself throughout the day. Know that you may not be your best and that's OK," Ference said. "Do things that are going to be satisfying for you. Do something good for yourself, treat yourself a little bit.

"It'll take the edge off."