A British professor points to Jan. 24 — Tuesday — as the most depressing day of the year and prescribes booking a winter vacation as a cure. Dr. Cliff Arnalls, a part-time tutor at Cardiff University has developed a formula to pinpoint the most depressing day of the year, at least for those who live north of the 30th parallel. Arnalls’ formula takes into account the weather in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year, the Christmas bills that are coming due and the likelihood that many have broken their New Year’s resolutions to quit some bad habit or otherwise change lifestyles. He also indicated that the hours of daylight, although gradually getting longer since Dec. 21, are still fewer than the hours of darkness, adding to the melancholy. According to the professor, those factors point to Jan. 24 — Tuesday — as the most depressing. The formula was devised to help a travel company analyze when people book vacations, and Arnalls’ prescription for the blues is to book a vacation to someplace warm and sunny.
There is little doubt that booking a vacation to a tropical isle can have an uplifting impact on one’s spirits, especially this time of year, but if that is all that it takes to alter your mood, chances are you weren’t suffering from depression in the first place, regardless of Arnalls’ formula. Far too often we use the word depressed when we are feeling put upon at work or by relatives, when the bills exceed the money available to pay them or when we suffer from winter-induced cabin fever. And that is a far cry from what doctors call depression, which in clinical terms can be an extremely debilitating illness that can require psychological and physiological treatments. Dr. Doug Berne, chief of the section of child and adolescent psychiatry at Reading Hospital, explained that one of the factors that determines the difference between having the blues and being depressed is how long the feeling lasts. People who feel depressed for two weeks or more probably are suffering from more than just a midwinter case of doldrums, Berne said. And if that’s the case, booking a cruise to the Caribbean probably won’t do any harm, but it won’t help much, either.
One of the symptoms of clinical depression, Berne said, is the inability to derive the pleasure from that cruise. Others include changes in appetite, sleep patterns and energy. Berne said it is possible that Arnalls could be correct, that Jan. 24 could be the most depressing day of the year, but those people who suffer from clinical depression wouldn’t see much of a difference between that day and any other day. Often they view themselves in a bleak, black pit of despair with no end in sight, he said. Depressed people often recognize there is something wrong, but they don’t think things will change, so there isn’t much point in seeing a doctor.
The good news is that doctors often can help. Berne explained that not all depressions are equal, so not all are treated the same way. Not all need medications, for example. Sometimes just thinking about depressing things in a different light is enough to help an individual deal with his or her depression. Whether Tuesday will be any more depressing than the rest of the winter certainly is open to debate. But if it seems that way, perhaps viewing things in a different way will help: Spring will be only eight weeks away — regardless of whether you can book that trip to the tropics.