Five Unexpected (& Free) Ways to Beat Blue Monday

Words by
Sphere Editors

10th January 2023

Don't let the fact that January 16th is supposedly the most depressing day of the year get to you. Because - guess what? The term "Blue Monday", slated to take place on the third Monday of every January in the northern half of the planet, was invented as a PR stunt for a travel firm. This, and other happiness making things, curated by SPHERE. 

January in the Northern Hemisphere is harsh. This much we know. We get less sunlight than a weed growing in the cracks of a pavement, the post-Christmas slump is in full swing, and to top it off the breakdown of new year resolutions and the arrival of credit card bills serve to snuff out any vestiges of positivity we may have been feeling about entering a new year. Of course, there is a name for this day: Blue Monday. And if you are feeling all of the above, we are here to cheer you up.

Blue Monday is Made Up (But the Song Isn't)

Though it has taken hold in popular culture, mainly because it feels largely true, Blue Monday was invented by Chris Arnall for Sky Travel in 2005, and sent out as a press release to inspire people to book holidays to feel better about the year ahead. Mr Arnall created a formula, which has been debunked by the scientific community, to highlight why a given day in January is the most depressing of the year. The first Blue Monday was 24th January in 2005, but has since settled on being the third Monday in January – and like any other day created by marketeers, it has its own attendant commercial gains associated with it. The moral of this tale? Don’t let the existence of Blue Monday drag you down, do something more positive instead, like listening to Blue Monday (above) by New Order - guaranteed to brighten up your day.

All of the Lights
Dan Flavin at David Zwirner
coloured fluorescent lights exhibition at David Zwirner, Mayfair, until February 18

A case of Seasonal Affective Disorder can be remedied by a fabulous holiday to the Maldives, but if that option isn't open to you, or you've just returned from sunnier climes, top up your January dose of intense light therapy with a visit to the just opened exhibition coloured fluorescent light  by Dan Flavin, showing at David Zwirner in Mayfair. 

Presented across two floors, the light works on show faithfully re-create the artist’s momentous colored fluorescent light exhibitions, which took place at Leo Castelli Gallery and Galerie Heiner Friedrich in New York and Cologne in 1976. The original shows were ground-breaking in presenting Flavin's innovative use of immersive colour and serial progressions in response to architectural space, and demonstrated how art could be created from household objects.

In bringing these works back together, the exhibition provides a rare opportunity to directly experience the artist’s singular vision and ability to transform space through everyday materials. And depending on which space you choose to dwell it will either soothe your soul (see the pink room for this), or wake up your brain with searing pops of colour and pulsing light - either option will chase away the January blues.

coloured fluorescent lights, free entry, until February 18th

"How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun." -Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield With a Reaper, September, 1889

Forget Blue Monday, and make yours a yellow Monday instead. Yellow is associated with sunshine, hope, laughter, warmth, happiness, and energy, and science has found viewing the colour can make a person feel spontaneous and happy. Certainly Vincent Van Gogh’s plentiful use of the colour in his works, from Sunflowers to The Reaper (above) has given rise to much discussion, but as fellow artist Paul Gaugin commented, ‘Oh yes, he loved yellow, this good Vincent, this painter from Holland — those glimmers of sunlight rekindled his soul, that abhorred the fog, that needed the warmth.’

A splash of yellow on anything dull or dark can make a person feel cheerful and optimistic – why else would it be the colour of the Smiley Face, which became the progenitor of the emoji, now the preferred way of expressing textual emotion.

Parables for Happiness from Yinka Ilori
Yinka Ilori at The Design Museum
Yinka Ilori's exhibtion Parables for Happiness is at the Design Museum until June

If joy and happiness is eluding you right now, you could do no better than to head to The Design Museum to see the British Nigerian artist Yinka Ilori’s showcase Parables for Happiness.

The show displays key elements of Ilori’s vibrant aesthetic, which throughout his career have been drawn from a mix of cultures that came together in the north London diaspora community where he grew up. The Nigerian textiles and fabrics of his childhood are the foundation of his practice, and he regularly captures the colourful geometric patterns that feature in Nigerian design in his work.

Visitors to Parables of Happiness, which is free to enter, will discover 100 objects ranging from artworks, photographs and furniture, to textiles, books and personal possessions, offering an unprecedented glimpse into Ilori’s use of the power of design to absorb cultural influences and express London’s rich mix of identities.

Parables for Happiness until 25 June 2023 at the Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, London W8 6AG, UK.

Yinka Ilori at The Design Museum
Yinka Ilori's exhibtion Parables for Happiness is at the Design Museum until June
Jennifer Coolidge's Speech at The 80th Golden Globes

We all know the joy and pain that can come from an infinite scroll on a dark British January night, but there is happiness making gold out there in the wilds of the Internet to chase away the blues. This week's viral happiness hit came thanks to the icon that is Jennifer Coolidge winning her Golden Globe for her role as Tanya in The White Lotus. Here, she revels in the joy of making a career comeback at the age of 62, referencing her wilderness years, and is generally so fabulous, you'll be laughing and crying within about 20 seconds. If you haven't watched until the end of the second series of the White Lotus, there's a spoiler alert in here. If you have, press play and soak up her Golden Globes joy. If that works for you, follow her on Instagram. You're welcome.