Consider the stars

Have you ever heard of Blue Monday? I’m not referring to the song by New Order but rather the third Monday of January. The concept of Blue Monday surfaced in 2005 during a press release from British travel company, Sky Travel, as part of a publicity stunt. Apparently, a psychologist, Dr. Cliff Arnall, created a formula pointing to the third Monday in January as being the gloomiest of the year. Arnall’s formula considered many factors, including the weather at this time of year, people’s probable level of debt, time after Christmas and New Year’s resolutions, general lower motivation levels, and the feeling of a need to take action.

The science behind the formula has frequently been questioned and some feel it trivializes the seriousness of depression. Arnall himself apologized for the way the idea had been exploited by companies to sell products claiming to improve a gloomy outlook. His intention was to emphasize the importance of maintaining good mental health and to open a discussion of the best ways to ensure this.

Since then, there have been many schemes and programmes designed to improve our mental health. Something I have found particularly helpful has been the Five Ways to Wellbeing. They are a set of practical actions developed by the New Economics Foundation from evidence gathered in the Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project (2008). The five simple things to give our wellbeing a boost include (1) Take notice, (2) Connect, (3) Be active, (4) Keep learning, and (5) Give.

Whilst endorsing these five actions, I would like to add two more. They happen to be the subject of a sermon I heard just the other day. They are (1) Consider, or meditate on, the greatness of the creation we have been born into, which leads to (2) Develop an attitude of gratitude. Remembering how small I am in such a vast universe, whilst recognising that I am loved by a God who knows me intimately, and cares for my eternal wellbeing, fuels my attitude of gratitude and seldom fails to lift my mood.

Of course, these ideas are not new. King David wrote about such things three thousand years ago. Many of his psalms are a journey from a low mood to a place of gratitude and praise. A particular favourite of mine is psalm 8. Verse 3 alone gives me plenty to think about:

When I consider your heavens,

The work of your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,

Human beings that you care for them?

For more information about the Five Ways to Wellbeing and some other great tips from the NHS follow this link: