By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
Published January 22, 2007
The credit card bills are arriving from those holiday shopping sprees. Vacations are over. And that New Year's resolution to start jogging in the mornings has fallen prey to the snooze button.
Feeling down? Dr. Cliff Arnall thought so.
Today is the most depressing day of the year, according to a formula created by Arnall, a British psychologist. His formula takes into account the debt and failed fresh starts that abound this time of year, as the glow of Christmas and New Year's fades.
Not coincidentally, the day falls on a Monday. "It's back to the usual routine: job, looking for a job, kids to school," and so on, Arnall said.
It doesn't help that the weather - another factor in the equation - is dreary in Wales, where he lives, this time of year.
But even Florida's fabulous weather poses problems: Lawns need mowing, fleas bite, and we can't wear those smart winter styles.
Arnall crafted his formula two years ago for a travel agency that wanted to know when people were most glum and thus, theoretically, most likely to splurge on a vacation package. But as media outlets picked it up on both sides of the Atlantic, the formula gathered both interest and skepticism.
The melancholy math works something like this: Subtract monthly salary from debt, add the weather quality, then multiply by the time since Christmas raised to the power of "Q" (the time since that New Year's resolution fizzled out). Then divide by motivation level and the "need to take action," both figures derived from surveys in which people rank how energetic they feel on a scale of one to 10.
"If Mr. Arnall's approach is to be followed, we don't need to base our work on evidence, we can just make it up," said London-based relationship psychologist Petra Boynton. "Who cares if it's nonsense?"
Nonsense or not, a funny thing happened once the formula got around: The depressing day became reason enough to spread good cheer.
Today in England, where Arnall's formula has enjoyed the most media attention, people are holding "whine and cheese" parties. The Samaritans, who run a British crisis hotline, will hand out packets of Yorkshire tea to stressed commuters at London's Victoria Station. Green Communications, a public relations firm, plans to truck in sand, palm trees and deck chairs to turn its office into a beach.
And the Catholic Church in England has dubbed today "Don't Worry, Be Happy" day and named an unofficial patron for the occasion: St. Pio, an early 20th century mystic who told people to "Pray, hope and don't worry."
"I'm really pleased when people say, 'I think your idea is rubbish,' " Arnall said. "I want people to fight against it and say, 'I'm going to have a good day and do some good quality things.' "
The most depressing day is anything but for Arnall, who is pleased that people are talking openly about depression. He will give a barrage of interviews today, then he hopes to take his own advice and indulge a bit:
"One of my hobbies is flying light aircraft," such as Cessnas and P-28s, he said, "so if I manage to get any time and it's a nice day, I'll be doing some acrobatics."
And if all else fails, he can look forward to June 22, the day he predicts will be the happiest of the year.Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached at toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6258, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[W + (D-d)] x TQ
M x NA = :(
THE VARIABLES: W = weather - D = debt d = monthly salary - T = time since Christmas Q = time since failed resolution M = low motivational levels NA = the need to take action
REASONS TO BE HAPPY : )
1. We're not in Wales.
2. Everyone else has broken their New Year's resolutions, too.
3. The Bucs and the Devil Rays won't lose today.
4. There are no hurricanes brewing.
5. It's DJ Jazzy Jeff's birthday (he turns 42).
6. Kittens and puppies.
7. Your approval rating, if you had one, would probably be higher than the president's.