THE third Monday of January is still referred to by many as the most depressing day of the year.
But, as ‘Blue Monday’ approaches a Manchester GP has given some advice for those temporarily feeling low – with a renewed call for a better understanding of long-term depression.
Blue Monday – a term originally coined for a travel firm – follows the hedonistic Christmas period and is said to affect many as in coincides with the end of holidays and traditional bad weather.
However, Dr Martin Whiting, clinical lead for one of Manchester’s Clinical Commissioning Groups, says there are a range of ways of making sure that dips in mood are kept in perspective.
Dr Whiting said: “Temporary low mood is very different issue to chronic or severe depression.
“In instances like so-called Blue Monday, it would be a good time to keep a diary or journal which can outline goals or motivations for the year – because this gives direction for thoughts.
“It would also be useful to record low feelings – and then go back and almost ‘challenge’ those thoughts asking if they are real – or if they are emotions having an influence on our way of thinking.”
Dr Whiting also advocates exercise and social activities as a way of boosting mood and counteracting any stress.
He says: “The endorphins released by exercise are widely recognised as having a positive effect on how we feel. Getting out and having a walk will help counteract negative emotions and have a beneficial physical effect too.
“This, combined with talking to a friend, or doing something sociable means that instead of retreating, a person is more engaged in what is going on around them. It may be an old adage, but a problem shared is very often is a problem solved.”
However, Dr Whiting also wants to highlight the difference between an episode of low mood and chronic or ongoing depression.
He says: "Serious depression is incapacitating and is very different to a temporary or minor episode.
"For patients with chronic depression a combined medical and therapeutic approach is often used. In particular, cognitive behaviour therapy - a technique which helps patients to question negative thoughts and break harmful patterns - can be used instead of, or as well as antidepressants.
"If depressive thoughts are affecting your normal functioning, causing disturbed sleep, reduced or increased appetite, or at the most extreme causing thoughts of self harm - then you should seek medical help, in the first instance from your GP."