'Blue Monday': How to beat the winter blues
Published Monday, January 18, 2016 9:45AM EST
Experts say long nights, short days and an absence of blue skies make the depths of winter a difficult time for many Canadians.
And as holiday festivities fade and new year's resolutions crumble, some say the third Monday of January, or "Blue Monday," marks the most depressing day of the year.
A number of factors converge on "Blue Monday," causing some people to feel excess stress or unhappiness, says Robert Levitan, the Cameron Wilson Chair in Depression Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
For example, the holidays are over, Christmas bills linger, and work is picking up for many people, he said.
"There is this confluence of factors that can affect any one individual," Levitan told CTV's Canada Am on Monday. "The idea of 'Blue Monday' … was designed to take into consideration all those factors."
However, Levitan said, the temporary "Blue Monday" blues is not the same as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
SAD is caused by lack of light during the winter months, Levitan said, and it's a "true disorder that needs to be treated."
According to CAMH, the disorder can cause a range of symptoms, including excessive sleeping or eating, low energy and trouble with concentration.
"If you look at Canadians as a group, a significant number will feel much worse in the winter than they do in the spring and summer," Levitan said "Some people are quite severely depressed."
When this depression becomes debilitating, Levitan said, those suffering should seek treatment.
"For people with any kind of disability associated with their depression, we use light therapy and we have patients sit in front of a light unit that is ultra violet filtered," Levitan said. "Half an hour of light in the morning can do a lot of good for patients."
Levitan said this treatment can help regulate moods, sleeping and eating patterns, and help people find the motivation or energy to be active.
He said light boxes that mimic outdoor lighting are widely available in commercial stores.
In Toronto, a local café is also offering light therapy for its customers on Monday.
The Brioche Doree Café says its customers on Monday can try Re-Timer glasses, which emit light in a way similar to light boxes.
A portion of the café's coffee sales that day will also be donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association.