Toronto

Blue Monday isn't real but the winter blues are, experts say. Here are some tips to beat them.

There is no real scientific truth behind Blue Monday, but one expert says the day provides a reminder to get people talking about mental health.

Psychologist Dr. Stacy Thomas says it's important to spend time with others, get light exposure to beat blues

Blue Monday is often considered the saddest day of the year, but the claim holds no truth according to psychologists and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (Shutterstock / panitanphoto)

No, there's no scientific proof to suggest Blue Monday is real.

The third Monday in January is commonly considered the saddest day of the year, but some experts say it isn't actually more depressing than any other day of the month. 

But while there's no scientific proof behind it, Dr. Stacy Thomas says the day can be linked to the time of the year when people feel low, especially because of the dreary weather. And it's a good reminder to get people talking about mental health. 

"Some feel quite depressed and it's an important point of conversation around mental health in the winter time," she said.

Thomas says that while Blue Monday began as a marketing ploy to encourage people to travel, feeling down during this time of year can be tied to a real depressive condition. 

"Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)... is a form of depression that happens in a seasonal pattern, typically in the winter time when there is less light." 

Dr. Stacy Thomas is a clinical psychologist who says Blue Monday is a product of the travel industry that wanted more people to go on vacation. She says now, the day can be a significant time to start up a conversation about mental health during winter time. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

But there are steps people can take to help fight off the winter blues, she says.

Light therapy, using lamps that mimic the effects of sunlight, are one tool to help give people a boost.

"The best kind of light therapy, even if it's not really bright sun, is actually getting outside in the daytime," said Thomas.

She also suggests a form of talk therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy, which examines thoughts, behaviours, and moods to see how they all interact. 

Another suggestion: check in with yourself, be aware of how social you are during the winter and think about your lack of exposure to light.

"If we just look at what the pattern is, then we can decide more specifically how this year is going to be different."

Places to go to beat the blues 

In addition, there are several events and activities happening around the city that may help you cope.

CAMH activities

To help debunk the Blue Monday myth, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is holding "Blue Funday," a free community and patient event from noon to 1 p.m. at the Queen St. site. 

Blue Monday Bus 

Local students and Coun. Cynthia Lai are using the day to benefit those in need.

Students from Royal Crown Academic School to deliver food and gift packs on a "Blue Monday donation bus."

"[Blue Monday] is generally a depressing day and we want students to reach out to the community and bring some laughter, bring some light... and get prepared for a brand new awesome year," says Mino Chou, director of the school.

The Blue Monday donation bus is an initiative of the Royal Crown Academic School in Scarborough. Students at the school will deliver hot meals and gift packs to seniors and homeless youth in Toronto on Monday. (James Morrison-Collalto/CBC)

Students will visit four locations to drop off hot meals, hand written notes, and clothing donations. 

The bus will also visit a youth homeless shelter downtown, the Muslim Welfare centre in Scarborough, and two senior centres in Scarborough. 

Pop-up Dog Parks

If being around animals makes you happy, here's one option:

Cadillac Fairview will be hosting four pop-up dog parks at various CF office towers in downtown Toronto. 

Visitors can come by, pet the animals and enjoy some pet therapy. 

Toronto Public Library 

Light therapy lamps are meant to help treat the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder, as they mimic the spring and summer light levels, according to the Toronto Public Library. 

Light lamps are available at select Toronto Public Library locations. They can be used on a first come, first serve basis.

The organization has light lamps available to the public. There are two lamps located at select locations. The lamps can't be taken out of the library, but can be used on a first come, first serve basis. 

Here's where you can find them:

  • Agincourt
  • Brentwood
  • Don Mills
  • Fairview
  • Humber Bay
  • Malvern
  • Maria A. Shchuka
  • North York Central (4th floor and Teen Zone)
  • Parkdale
  • Parliament
  • Toronto Reference Library

Toronto Light festival

Another place to check out to beat the blues is the Toronto Light Festival happening now in the Distillery District.

"After the new year, our city gets darker, and it gets a little colder, says Matthew Rosenblatt, creator and executive director of the Toronto Light Festival.  

"We want to give people a reason to come out of their houses, explore the city, have their spirits lifted up," he said. 

The festival runs until March 1. 

The Toronto Light Festival is on until March 1.

About the Author

Kirthana Sasitharan is a Journalist with CBC News. Reach her on twitter @KirthanaSasitha.