Most Depressing Day of the Year: Here's How to Cheer Up on Blue Monday

It's almost Tuesday.Rainy days and Mondays are bad enough. But Blue Monday? The worst. And did we mention that it happens to be today?

Blue Monday, for the uninitiated, is the Monday of the last full week in January, so-named because it's supposedly the most depressing day of the year.

The day was actually created by UK psychologist Cliff Arnall as a publicity campaign for a travel company in 2005. He came up with an elaborate formula for its invention--involving weather, distance from the holidays, low motivational level, and time since abandoning your New Year's resolutions--that rings true for many. It may be why the concept of Blue Monday has stuck. Though it's often been dismissed as pseudoscience, "Interestingly, no one has ever disputed any of the factors that appear in my formula," Arnall told Yahoo! Shine.

See more: Ways to kick seasonal affective disorder

"Statistically speaking, the notion of Blue Monday makes sense," Michael Terman, Ph.D., Columbia professor and author of Chronotherapy: Resetting Your Inner Clock to Boost Mood, Alertness, and Quality Sleep, tells Yahoo! Shine. "Of course, it will be bluer for some people than for others," he says, explaining that it depends on a range of factors, including one's vulnerability to depression, what part of the country you live in, and how much sleep you usually get.

"Although the onset of the Seasonal Affective Disorder season varies greatly from person to person-from September to December-the peak of misery reliably occurs in late January and early February across the board," Terman adds. "This is true even though daylight has already begun to get longer following the winter solstice."

Depressing, huh? Try to cheer up, though, because there are plenty of ways to beat back the oh-so-common winter blues, starting with the basics: certain types of food.

See more: Beat the winter blues with these cold weather home essentials

"Definitely aim to eat salmon for the mood boosting properties found in omega 3s," nutritionist Mitzi Dulan, co-author of The All-Pro Diet, tells Yahoo! Shine. As for drinking, skip the alcohol, which can deplete your happiness and energy levels, and replace with copious amounts of water. "People often forget to hydrate well in the winter," Dulan says, adding that, for a treat, "a portion-controlled piece of chocolate can boost your mood, as it stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain, which improve mood."

Finally, she suggests, swallow a dose of Vitamin D while you're at it-or get outside for a while if it's a sunny day-as the vitamin "increases serotonin levels in the brain, which affect your mood."

Before you head outside, you might want to pull on your running shoes so you can break into a jog, because exercise, of course, is also a known cheerer-upper. Physical activity can reduce your risk of depression and may help you sleep better, according to the CDC, and the Mayo Clinic reports that exercise helps ease depression by releasing serotonin in the body, cleansing immune system chemicals, boosting self-confidence and taking thoughts off of anxieties.

Getting yourself into the light has other benefits, too, Terman, says. Light therapy can keep your circadian rhythms--whether you are inherently a late-night person or an early riser--in check through winter. "This can greatly reduce the seasonal burden," he says, suggesting that, to find out what you inner clock thinks is early or late, and when best to try light therapy, take the free, online chronotype questionnaire offered by the Center for Environmental Therapeutics (of which Terman is president).

See more: A diet that beats depression

Aiming to cheer up someone else is yet another way to yank yourself out of your pity party. "Sometimes there's no better mood lifter than getting out of your own head space and focusing on doing something good for another person," One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better author Erin McHugh told Yahoo! Shine. "It doesn't need to be big: I find little and constant can be life-changing. It's a truism that you get more than you give, and I defy you to do something nice for someone else and walk away without a spring in your step. Bring a flower. Tell a funny story to cheer someone. Give a compliment. Write a note. It all works."

McHugh's approach seems a particularly perfect cure this year, as Blue Monday happens to fall on Martin Luther King Day. "Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it," Dr. King once said, "because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others."

Finally, if all else fails, we've got three words for: cute animal websites. In a recent study published in the journal PLOS One, scientists from Hiroshima University actually discovered that looking at pictures of puppies and kittens (like that one on the upper-left corner of this very page) can be good for you, mainly by helping you focus. Might be the perfect time to check out the newly launched Pinterest for feline fans: Catmoji.

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