Magazine article The Spectator

LIFE - Long Life

Magazine article The Spectator

LIFE - Long Life

Article excerpt

I am writing on what is known as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. Or so the Daily Mail tells me. The newspaper claims that Blue Monday was invented by a psychologist called Cliff Arnall, who seven years ago identified the third Monday in January as the day on which people are at their gloomiest. 'He came up with a scientific formula based on the length of time until next Christmas, holiday debt, and the likelihood of giving up New Year resolutions, ' it says. The remoteness of next Christmas might seem, on the contrary, to be something to cheer about; and failure to keep New Year resolutions could have been easily avoided by following my example and not making any, as could 'holiday debt' by following the example of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. But this nonsensical anniversary survives, like so many artificial occasions (Father's Day springs to mind), because of its propensity to make money for somebody.

You might not think that the year's gloomiest day would be a spur to extravagance, but Mr Arnall published his findings on a television travel channel, provoking suspicion that one purpose was to boost the travel industry by getting people to jet off to happier places in sunnier climes. But with so many flights cancelled because of the weather, any attempt to escape Britain by air this year would have made Blue Monday even more depressing than usual. And Mr Arnall himself, who comes from Brecon in Wales, now confesses that the idea of a single most depressing day is 'not particularly helpful' because it could become 'a self-fulfilling prophecy'.

The weather may be dark and cold; the cost of fuel may be more than many can afford; thousands may be facing redundancy; and most may be feeling unmotivated and yearning to hibernate. But that's no reason to make Blue Monday a justification for self-pity.

Nevertheless, there is always someone ready to squeeze any occasion for its remunerative possibilities, and Blue Monday has now been used as a pretext by a chocolate company called Beyond Dark to commission a study of what things give people the most pleasure. Surprise, surprise! 'Eating chocolate' comes high on the list, though (at 65 per cent) it is in third place after 'playing with puppies' (67.5 per cent) and far below the nation's number one most pleasurable thing, which is 'finding a ten-pound note' (82. …

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