If you've switched on the news, read a newspaper or been on Twitter this morning, you will be well aware today is 'Blue Monday' - "officially" (we are told) the most arbitrary depressing day of the year.
The UK media has bought into this in a big way over the years, coming as it does at a time when real news is often thin on the ground.
The story goes like this: Christmas is behind us and our bank accounts are empty. All that shopping in December cleaned us out and our January pay is still at least a week away. Many of us have broken our New Year's resolutions already and credit card bills and sky-high heating bills are all starting to land on our doormat. Throw in some crappy weather and the fact everybody is talking about how miserable they are - because the media tells them they are - and it all starts to make sense.
But the story only began circulating in 2005 – which historians will note was several years after the invention of January, Christmas, credit cards and weather - when a PR agency representing Sky Travel seized upon a notion that seemed plausible (January is a pretty shoddy sort of a month after all) and worked with psychologist Cliff Arnall to publicise a magic formula that proves this hunch is actually scientific fact.
The business plan behind the story that resulted was that everybody would read the coverage and think 'hmmm, maybe I am a bit miserable today'. Then they would spot the Sky Travel name associated with Arnall's equation and rush to book a summer holiday with Sky Travel, thus giving themselves something to look forward to on this bleakest of days.
Who knows how many extra holidays they may have sold as a result, but in terms of coverage generated it's fair to say the idea has certainly worked, becoming as it has a fixture in the UK's news calendar.
Not everybody is impressed though. In 2006, The Guardian's Dr Ben Goldacre branded Cliff Arnall "the most prodigious of all producers of bogus equations" for, amongst other things, "proving that some arbitrary date in mid-January is the most miserable day of the year for Sky Travel.
Goldacre may want to point this out to his employer, who has regularly joined in the 'blue Monday' bunfight with every other media outlet (see note below).
The part of Sky Travel in all of this has long since taken a backseat and the existence of 'Blue Monday' has simply become fact in the minds of media and PR companies alike. The source now is generally unnamed "psychologists" plural, as the bandwagon began to creek under the weight of those charities and academics willing to validate the theory in search of some publicity. The headlines also tell us it's "official". So who's to argue.