If you woke up Monday morning feeling like your life was particularly in the toilet, you may have validated the formula that claims that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year.

Cliff Arnall, a psychology professor at Cardiff University in Wales, came up with the following formula to determine Blue Monday for 2008:

  • 1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA

The variables relate to things like weather, debt, Christmas bills coming due, failure of New Year's resolutions, and the need to take action versus general motivational levels.

While some see Arnall's work as harmless fun, at least one commentator has derided it as junk science motivated by commerce.

"(Arnall) is probably the most prodigious of all producers of bogus 'equations': proving that some arbitrary date in mid-January is the most miserable day of the year for Sky Travel; proving that some arbitrary date in mid-June is the happiest day of the year for Walls ice cream; and so on," Guardian "bad science" columnist Ben Goldacre wrote in 2006.

Junk science or not, this time of year in this country can be hard on the psyche. For example, those up in Resolute, Nunavut, had temperatures in the -40 Celsius range on Monday, with the wind chill making it feel like -55.

As to the time for sunrise and sunset? Darkness lasts 24 hours there at this time.

That's an extreme example. But seasonal affective disorder (SAD), brought on by inadequate light, can exist in southern Canada. Those in Vancouver and Toronto are particularly put at risk by the grey skies over those cities.

In comparison, Edmonton has relatively short days at this time of year. The sun rose on Monday at 8:36 a.m. and set at 4:54 p.m. But an Edmontonian's chances of getting some bright sunshine over that period is relatively good compared to a Torontonian or Vancouverite.

SAD can set in as early as November and last until March, although it can be treated with light therapy.

Health Canada has advised people that watching their diet can help them minimize the winter blues. For example, diets high in refined and processed foods can deplete the body of B vitamins, which help fight seasonal affective disorder and other forms of depression.

Workplace blues

While it isn't necessarily a seasonal problem, about half of all employed Canadians occasionally suffer from "work-induced blues," according to a Harris/Decima poll.

Nearly 20 per cent of 1,190 Canadians surveyed for the poll, conducted on behalf of Everest College, said that work "frequently" gets them down. The majority of workers also said they felt stuck in their jobs, with 66 per cent claiming that obstacles prevented them from making a career switch.

Julia Kennedy, a career expert with Everest College, told CTV's Canada AM on Monday that workplace blues vary from individual to individual.

"Everybody has a bad day at work," said Kennedy.

But in more serious cases, she added, employees will be disengaged at work and absenteeism will increase.

"Productivity goes down, so this is not just a problem for workers but it's obviously a problem for employers," said Kennedy.

She said there are three major factors which often trigger workplace blues in employees:

  • A lack of salary
  • A lack of advancement
  • A boss who is hard to get along with

"What I think that says is that Canadians feel they are not meeting their potential and are not valued," said Kennedy.

The poll also showed that 33 per cent of Gen-Xers and 23 per cent of Baby Boomers felt they were more intelligent than their bosses.

Kennedy suggested that employees suffering from workplace depression who don't want to leave their job should seek different challenges at their workplace.

She also said disengaged workers should speak to their boss about new opportunities.

"Ask your way to success," said Kennedy. "Go to your boss, talk to them... they are your partner in your development."

With a report from CTV's Todd Battis