It's Blue Monday. Except it isn't. But let's cheer ourselves up anyway
Pseudoscientific balderdash is useful pretext for barely-concealed list of heartwarming video clips
Today, the third Monday of January, is Blue Monday, the most depressing day in the calendar, according to the collective not-knowing-much-about-it of the internet. The days are short and dark, the holidays are over, everyone feels guilty about not eating more kale, and to top it all, we're not going to hear any more from David Bowie, Alan Rickman or Pierre Boulez. (Or Vilmos Zsigmond, or Paul Bley, or…)
Except that Blue Monday is a load of tosh, devised by Rupert Murdoch's Sky Travel as a way of selling holidays. Launched on the back of a press release containing pseudo-mathematical gibberish, it's been the excuse for countless sales promotions ever since. Which is another reason to be depressed, right?
Mourning our departed cultural heroes is right and proper, but let's not lie down and succumb to cheap cynicism. Let's accept that there is a long, dark teatime of the soul that cannot be enlivened by even the most amusing gif of Zooey Deschanel.
Let's redeem this grey afternoon, one way or the other. Let's pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. ('I believe it is possible. I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical!')
First, we must arm ourselves with gratuitous hopeful factoids. Did you know that polio is well on the way to being eradicated? In 1988, there were an estimated 350,000 cases of it; last year there were just 95. Some experts think that by the end of the year, it could be gone completely. Or did you realise that mobile phones are making it easier for people in the developing world to manage their money safely and efficiently? America is talking (grudgingly) to Cuba; Taiwan has its first female president; Jessica Jones has got a second season. Having basked in the rosy glow emanating from these out-of-context gobbets of positivity, let's just run through a few guidelines for handling days like Blue Monday.
1. Keep Hydrated
To quote Count Rugen in The Princess Bride, 'If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything.' The Princess Bride, incidentally, is not only a film which is almost guaranteed to put you in a good mood, it's also the cause of one of the most cheerful making-of books ever written: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, written by the film's very upbeat star Cary Elwes, which reveals that pretty much the entire shoot was great fun and that everyone had a lovely time and is left with fond memories. (Except for Wallace Shawn, who was convinced the whole time that the producers wanted to replace him with Danny De Vito.) While we're talking about books:
2. Read Something Helpful, i.e. Not Something By That John Gray Guy
You know, the Straw Dogs bloke: started out as a student leftie, then he was a Thatcherite, now he's all 'oh, we're doomed, humans are not worth preserving, nobody can make anything better'. That guy is just weird. As an antidote, try the wonderful essay On Bullshit by Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt, which is available as the cutest little book and which will give you the mental tools to tell when the Grays of the world are unloading the titular substance on you.
3. Get Some Fresh Air
And we don't mean by leaning out the window. A bit of exercise wouldn't kill you, and it so happens that Ian Dury and the Blockheads' 'Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3', at about five minutes long and medium tempo, is excellent exercise music.
4. Enjoy A Classic Movie
Let's clear something up: 'classic' is not a brand. Classic movies are classic because they retain the power to make us watch them. Whether it's Cary Grant hazing Ralph Bellamy in His Girl Friday, Bert Lahr enjoying some delicious scenery in The Wizard of Oz, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as light as laughing gas in Swing Time, classic movies call across the decades and remind us where we come from. Not that we come from 30s Hollywood. Except of course we do, partly. Well, you get the idea.
5. Hear An Uplifting Song
Now, this one was a difficult choice. Music is a very personal thing; one person may take comfort from REM's 'Everybody Hurts', while another may take comfort from smashing a vinyl copy of it into a fine powder and using it in a contemporary art installation. But there are musicians out there with the power to reach across boundaries, and one of them is Parks and Recreation's resident wannabe rock star, Andy Dwyer. In season three, Andy is tasked with writing a song 'five thousand times better than Candle in the Wind'. This was his solution.