Monday, January 9, 2006

Oh, woe is us — the gloomiest time of the year is looming dead ahead. Stay under the covers and wallow in comfort food on Monday, Jan. 23 — it’s the most melancholy day on the entire calendar, at least said a British psychologist who backs his claims with a scientific formula.

Forget the Ides of March. Beware [W + (D-d)] x TQM x NA, cautions Cliff Arnall of the University of Cardiff in Wales.

“The formula uses six immediately identifiable factors: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year’s resolution, low motivational levels and feeling a need to take action,” he said yesterday.

These miserable influences seem to make a most unharmonic convergence around the third week of January, said Mr. Arnall, who cites specific circumstances.

Cold, gray skies combined with incoming Christmas bills do little to uplift the spirit, he said, while many worry that the third-week paycheck won’t cover the deficit. The happy, giddy influence of the holidays fades with no immediate celebrations to anticipate. Meanwhile, those New Year’s self-bettering resolutions such as losing weight or saving money often fail about 21 days later.

Those are the W, D, T and Q factors at work, Mr. Arnall said. But wait, there’s more.

The daily grind plays a role. Back to work, household chores and commuting resumed, our collective motivation suffers. But there is some good news here: a certain noble need to look forward to positive things and take action is a positive influence.

That accounts for the M and the NA, Mr. Arnall said.

His plan would hold true for such cities as Washington, Toronto and London. But Moscow and Beijing? Those cities would require a major tweaking, Mr. Arnall said.

“The formula generally covers the U.S., Canada and Britain because of cultural and weather-pattern similarities,” he said. “The formula would have significant changes for countries with different cultures like Russia and China, and also for Southern Hemisphere countries for weather and cultural differences.”

Mr. Arnall has also devised formulas to predict personal motivation, voting and romantic behaviors and the emotional highs and lows of those who favor roller-coaster rides. He has also determined which day is best for work changes or new projects (Thursday, May 18).

“There’s not a formula for recovery from the most depressing day, but the discussion arising from the depressed-day formula itself gets people talking about solutions,” he said, adding that simply settling back into work and routine often has palliative effect.

And yes, Mr. Arnall has a “happiest-day formula,” a calculation he devised based on the influences of how much time we spend outdoors, social interaction, warm weather, vacations and pleasant-memory association.

We have only got 164 days to go.

“The happiest day is Friday, June 23 this year,” Mr. Arnall said.

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