According to a rather dubious equation, today is Blue Monday: the most depressing day of the year. The glitter baubles are back in the attic, the new years resolutions are out of the window, it´s dark when you go to work and darker when you return, and while the waistline may have increased, the bank balance certainly hasn´t. When you throw into the mix the fact that most breakups happen in January, it´s easy to see why millions of us are feeling low.
On a brighter note (I do try), we could argue that millions of miserable people have strength in numbers (isn´t it great to feel connected to other morbid-looking folk around the world?) and to prove this, there is a dedicated organization of eternally happy people determined to cheer you up on the official Blue Monday website, a new altruistic social movement like the many others I wrote about here.
So forget the overdraft, the money you wasted on membership to a gym you´ll never attend, and the fact you haven´t seen the sun for months. Let´s celebrate Blue Monday by focusing on all of us- globally- and look at the reasons we have to be cheerful as a united group of happy human beings. Yay!
1. People are caring, and they have found their voices.
Not only is volunteering on the increase, but thousands of social movements to help and inspire others have been launched in the past few years. One of the most successful is the people-powered campaigning site Avaaz , which launched in 2007 and now boasts more than 17 million members worldwide and counting. Avaaz´s successes cannot be understated; collectively its members have campaigned for 50 million actions, staged almost 10,000 marches and flashmobs, raised over $15m for good causes, and taken on politicians and corporations at the highest echelons to win incredible victories on urgent environmental and human rights issues.
And it´s not just Avaaz. The Arab spring was followed by Spain´s 15-M movement, whose rallying cry Real Democracy Now! inspired the global Occupy movement. Although some cynical commentators have declared this movement dead, many would argue Occupy´s greatest legacy was to bring corporate and political corruption and greed to the attention of the world- and put pressure on those in power to do something about it.
Could these compassionate grassroots movements be signs that deep inside the collective human psyche something is changing for the better? Is there real hope for a peaceful, fairer world for all of humanity? Have we begun to see the error of our ways? (The success of the Kardashians and Psy´s infuriating Gangnam style video may suggest otherwise, but let´s go along with it.)
2. Four weeks ago today, you didn´t die.
Yes folks, don´t forget that on December 21, 2012, absolutely nothing happened. Let´s have a group sigh, let those knotted shoulders relax. Ahhhhhh……that´s better.
So, as I ´m sure you know – unless you missed it because you were waiting for aliens at the so-called UFO garage (it´s inside a mountain in Bugarach, France, so I´m told)- all last month we had to contend with even the most mainstream of media filling its pages with talk of the Mayan prophecy. Come on, don´t tell me you weren´t interested! Editors know their readership and even the Guardian ran extensive coverage: no fewer than 40 articles were filed under food, travel, news and science amongst other categories, and a special bumper guide to the Mayan apocalypse and End of the world Quiz were thrown in for any readers who needed a little more light reading in the run-up to Armageddon.
But despite soaring sales of candles and survival kits, we´re still here (and wondering what to do with 50 packets of cup-a-soup). In the absence of an alien invasion, pole shift or solar storm I am feeling rather sorry for the makers of the ´official´ 2012 website. What to do when the cataclysmic event you have been preparing your angst-ridden, panic-buying readers for doesn´t happen? Er…you rebrand, stoopid. It seems they have opted to jump on the positivity bandwagon with the theory that 2013 is a new beginning: we have entered the Age of Aquarius, a new dawn of man. So put down the bung wrench we screamed at you to buy and start thinking of your fellow man! Isn´t marketing amazing? (For what it´s worth, I like the new angle better.)
3. We are biologically programmed to co-operate, not compete
This beautiful video (originally published on Goodnet) shows that generosity and compassion are second nature to kids. In a social experiment, pairs of children (who don´t know each other) are left alone in a room under the pretense of waiting for a photographer. One child is provided with a sandwich, the other isn´t. Of the 20 children who took part, all of them without exception chose to break their snack into two parts to share with their less fortunate partner. This is a wonderfully inspirational clip, and don´t let the Spanish introduction put you off; actions speak louder than words! Conclusion? If we grown-ups behaved like the children featured here, we would be living in a veritable utopia. Amen to that.
4. Group meditation may help cut crime
In late November last year, New York city recorded its first ever day without violent crime. Murders and manslaughter were down 23% compared with 2011, which represents a 50-year low. As if that wasn´t heartening enough, there is evidence to suggest that group transcendental meditation may be a contributing factor to this significant drop in recorded crime.
In the summer of 1993, a group of more than 4,000 people from 81 countries met in Washington, D.C to take part in a mass meditation experiment as part of the TM-Sidhi programme. Researchers who published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Social Indicators Research predicted that the event could reduce violent crime by over 20 percent in Washington, D.C over an eight week period. Despite the ´woteva´ reaction of police, this incredible goal was achieved, leaving befuddled D.Is scratching their heads for quite some time afterwards.
For the cynics out there, remember this: The odds of violent crime reduction occurring by chance are less than TWO in ONE BILLION (sorry for shouting) and other explanations were conclusively ruled out after rigorous statistical analyses. Whilst the same study has not been conducted (yet) for the surprising New York crime statistic, the story is the same as it was in 1993: group transcendental meditation occurred and suddenly crime dropped dramatically.
According to quantum physicist John Hagelin, meditation techniques “create a state of deep relaxation and coherence in the individual and simultaneously appear to produce an effect that spreads into the environment, influencing people who are not practicing the techniques and who have no knowledge of the experiments themselves.”
Are we entering an era where the line between science and spirituality is becoming blurred? Is there more to the real world than what we can see, touch and hear? Certainly many academics, spiritual gurus and scientists alike are arriving at the same conclusions, and it´s all good news for the future of society and development of more effective crime reduction techniques. More information here.
5. And 6, and 7, and 8, and so on to infinity and beyond…..
If Blue Monday is still getting you down, other reminders that the world´s a wonderful place can be found in these links from various feel-good sites (which I couldn´t live without by the way):
Positive news stories from 2012:
Uplifting news to come out of bad situations:
Progression through social media:
And your homework comes courtesy of Positivity Guru Rob Brezsny:
And you know what else? Even Cliff Arnal, the psychologist who calculated this date, doesn´t agree with us moping around.
I´ll leave you with the legend that is Bobby McFerrin, and quite frankly if that doesn´t crack a smile, I give up. Don´t worry, be happy :)