BLUE MONDAY: Not feeling blue on the Fylde coast

There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful
There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful
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It is supposedly the most depressing day of the year.

But research shows we’re a happy bunch here on the Fylde coast with plenty to smile about this Blue Monday – the day dubbed the most depressing of the year.

According to latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, Lancashire’s population of 1.5 million people are a smiling bunch, priding themselves on high levels of happiness.

The latest findings show that residents in Fylde and Wyre are among the happiest in the whole country.

And while Blackpool lags slightly behind when it comes to Lancashire’s districts, levels of happiness are still high, accompanied by lower feelings of anxiety.

Comedian Phil Walker, who lives in Lytham, said he wasn’t surprised that Fylde is rated one of the happiest places to be.

James Gough and Louise Cookson with their daughter Isabel Gough

James Gough and Louise Cookson with their daughter Isabel Gough

“I’ve worked all over but there really is nowhere like it,” he said.

“If you’re ever feeling down, you can take a walk along the Prom and all that glorious scenery and fresh air it makes you feel great - the perfect antidote.

“A bonus is the weather – we seem to have our own micro-climate here and it practically always seems so much better than anywhere else.

“The other day I had a job in Birmingham and no sooner had we left Fylde and the sunshine than it clouded over and the weather was miserable all the way. I couldn’t wait to get back.

“I’ve lived here all my life and I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Radio breakfast show host and pantomime star Hayley Kay said: “We have loads of great things in Blackpool so we should all be very happy.

“We have the award-winning Stanley Park which is a real jewel in our town.“We also have the wonderful Blackpool Zoo, The Sandcastle, the circus and of course the Tower.“There’s always stuff going on and we are lucky it’s here, right on our doorstep.”

Blackpool children’s entertainers Grandaddy and Nanny Trumbell added: “It’s just January blues I think.

“That’s why I love our job when we make people laugh they always feel a lot better about themselves.

“We really enjoy working in this town, I mean I’ve lived here for over 20 years.

“It’s just the adrenaline has dropped since Christmas, but in season, Blackpool is a really atmospheric place to be.”

And for comedian Steve Royle, who starred in the latest pantomime at The Grand Theatre, Blue Monday will be anything but that.

He said: “How can anyone be depressed on a Monday when your kids are at school?

“On Saturdays and Sundays you’re caught ferrying them around to various clubs; Monday’s are really quiet there’s no way it’s depressing.

“Blue Monday should be in the summer holidays after about a week when the kids start saying ‘I’m bored’ and have nothing to do and you’re having to fork out £30 for a cinema ticket and bag of popcorn.”

Mark Broadhurst, service director of health and wellbeing at Wyre Council isn’t surprised his district is among the happiest around.

“We have residents who simply do the things that make them happy more often,” he said.

“With our great parks, fells and beaches we have a great natural environment.“Working in our communities we are striving to encourage and develop

more of these positive activities.”

Lancashire County Council cabinet member for health and wellbeing, coun Shaun Turner said: “We are blessed with the amount of green space and countryside in Lancashire.

“We’re also a gateway to the Lake District which is really great. It’s a cracking place to call home.”

The figures come from the ONS’ annual report on personal well-being in the UK, which estimates life satisfaction, feelings of worthwhileness, happiness and anxiety.

A day of joy

Today will be anything but blue for two parents celebrating their daughter’s first birthday.

Louise Cookson and James Gough are taking their little girl Isabel – who was born on January 15 last year – to Old Holly Farm in Garstang before going swimming to mark the special occasion.Elswick-born Louise said: “It’s a really big thing for us. The day is not just Isabel’s first birthday but a day that marks our first year as parents.”

Meanwhile Blackpool student Dan Fielding celebrates his 21st birthday today. “It’s not Blue Monday for me, this year I’ve decided to come home and celebrate my birthday in Blackpool.

“I’m going to go out for a meal with my family and I am really looking forward to it. I couldn’t imagine spending it anywhere else.”

‘Blue Monday? Nonsense’

Is it really the most depressing day of the year? And who even came up with the idea?

Put simply, although Blue Monday is acknowledged every year, there is no valid proof that it exists beyond our imaginations.

It was, in fact, a concept invented in 2005 by holiday company Sky Travel as part of its marketing campaign.

The idea was to get potential customers thinking about booking summer holidays to beat off those January blues.

The original 2005 press release claimed to have scientific research, including equations, to back up its claims.

The sum included variables - such as ‘weather’, ‘time since Christmas’, ‘debt level’, ‘motivational levels’ and ‘time since failure to keep new year’s resolution’ – which scientists say aren’t part of the metrical system.

Unsurprisingly, this equation has since been debunked and labelled ‘pseudoscience’ – in other words, it’s a lot of rubbish.

“There are so many reasons to believe it’s nonsense,” says Dean Burnett, a doctor of neuroscience and Cardiff University lecturer.

“Firstly, the equation wasn’t the result of some psychological study by a reputable lab, but conducted by a travel company, who then fished around for a psychologist to put his name to it, to make it seem credible.”On top of all this, Dr Burnett says the equation itself is ‘scientifically ridiculous’.

“It combines things that have no quantifiable way of being combined,” he says.

“Debt level, time since Christmas, weather, motivation – the equation combines all these things, but that’s not possible.

“It’s like a maths problem that goes ‘43 minus 12 plus the colour red multiplied by mouldy cheese minus the theme songs from Friends equals...’

“It’s impossible to solve this because all the individual components are so different and have no compatibility with each other.”

The paths to a happier life

Happiness isn’t about being happy all the time, according to academic Lowri Dowthwaite.

And the UCLan psychology lecturer, dubbed ‘Mrs Happy’, knows a thing or two about the subject because she has been running happiness workshops for the last four years.

She said: “The last thing I would want anyone to believe is that I am happy all the time.

“Striving for a happy life is one thing, but striving to be happy all the time is unrealistic.”

In an article for The Conversation, the academic writes: “Recent research indicates that psychological flexibility is the key to greater happiness and well-being. For example, being open to emotional experiences and the ability to tolerate periods of discomfort can allow us to move towards a richer, more meaningful existence.”

Lowri says there are two paths to a happier life.

“Hedonists take the view that in order to live a happy life we must maximise pleasure and avoid pain,” she wrote.

“This view is about satisfying human appetites and desires, but it is often short lived.

“In contrast, the eudaimonic approach takes the long view. It argues that we should live authentically and for the greater good. We should pursue meaning and potential through kindness, justice, honesty and courage.

She adds: “Unlike feeling happy, which is a transient state, leading a happier life is about individual growth through finding meaning.

“It is about accepting our humanity with all its ups and downs, enjoying the positive emotions, and harnessing painful feelings in order to reach our full potential.”