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Blue Monday...

by Dr Stuart Linke

· thoughts

The third Monday in January may or may not be the most depressing day of the year. Let’s face it - in the last 12 months there have been plenty of candidates. But it somehow rings true that it might be. It’s cold and dark, the winter festivities are behind us and we may be overspent, overdrawn and overwrought. New year resolutions made in good faith don’t always make it through the first three weeks of the year.

Traditional societies know about seasonality. Christmas, Channukah and Diwali all mark the winter solstice by bringing light into our lives. But it is only one month since the sun turned and we don’t yet feel its warmth or even believe that any brightness is coming. We need new rituals at this time of year to encourage and sustain us and help us to look forward.

A hot bath is often welcome in winter, but immersion in a mikveh can be part of a personal ritual. The key to meaningful ceremony is intention (kavenah in Hebrew). From a psychological perspective ritual facilitates and enables personal change, often by progressing through a series of stages or a symbolic journey. Meaningful words can help but on their own they may not be enough. Embodiment of intention is also a physical experience involving attention to the body, the mind and the senses. Even imagining water can have a beneficial psychological effect.

Creating a mikveh ritual for late January takes a bit of care, planning and effort. It is common to want to withdraw and hide away at this time of year and that might be helpful and restorative for a while. But if we get stuck in that place depression can creep in. A visit to the mikveh can help us flow again. The steps might begin with making time for yourself and planning the visit. Clarifying your intention. Is there a particular issue that needs to be addressed or have you simply lost contact with the sense of touch and physical movement? Hold these thoughts in mind as you enter the water and simply see what happens. Pampering yourself after the visit and spending time in reflection can help to ground the experience. Debriefing with a friend can deepen it.

Each season, each life stage and each situation call for different ways of using the mikveh. At the centre is a pool of free-flowing water and a willingness to allow ourselves to experience it. We can simplify or elaborate the process as much as we want. The more of ourselves we bring to each visit the more we are likely to gain.


Stuart is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and Associate Research Fellow in the E - health unit. He is the head of the Complex Depression, Anxiety and Trauma Service and his clinical interests include cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness, adult mental health and clinical risk management. He has also published on religion and psychology. He is a National Assessor for Clinical Psychology.