Why do we hate Mondays?
If you're lucky enough not to work weekends, the bedside alarm beeping into life on Saturday morning is arguably the second most joyous sound in the world.
It’s just pipped by the thud our hand makes in switching it off before rolling back over. Forty-eight hours later, that same alarm becomes a belligerent demon, taunting you with a welcome to the week that lies ahead. Monday has dawned.
In the same way we get that Friday feeling, if our weekend indeed starts on a Friday, the Monday blues can lead to many a glum face at the beginning of the week's first shift.
But are we just buying in to a habit of feeling grouchy as another week of shifts gets under way, or is there real science dictating our mood as a full-stop is plopped at the end of our weekend fun? Here’s what we know.
Peaks and troughs
The blues you may experience on a Monday can be based on a direct comparison to the day before. To explain this with a more extreme example, consider your birthday.
Friends and family making you feel special, sending you cards and feeding you cake is usually a beloved childhood memory, particularly when it involves unwrapping that one gift which was at the top of your wish list.
Think back, then, to the days-after-your-birthday of your childhood. They were lovely, granted, with new gifts to play with and a bit of post-birthday afterglow, but there was never the same excitement as the day before.
That’s a little bit like the difference between a Sunday and Monday, but on a much larger scale, and repeated every week. It’s what psychologists call an emotional shift, and no other part of the week has a transition like it. The joy of a Sunday spent with the family or chatting with friends is immediately contrasted with the need to wake up early, get washed and dressed and begin work or school.
That instant shift makes Monday seem like the absolute worst, even if it’s no different a working day to the four which follow it. A 2012 study by America’s Journal of Positive Psychology found that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays were hated just as much in results from a poll taken by 340,000 people.
The love of a lie-in
Those two days where we can ignore the Monday to Friday morning routine and grab some extra shut-eye is one reason why peeling yourself from the mattress come Monday morning is such a chore.
The added sleep time we cram in on Saturdays and Sundays, particularly after a tiring week, can have a negative effect on your body clock, which keeps your wake-up times at a regular rhythm.
Two hours of extra dozing can disrupt the body clock by as much as 45 minutes. That’s why you can go to sleep on Sunday night, confident that you’ve caught up with any lack of sleep from the previous week and still feel groggy when the alarm sounds the next morning.
We don’t hate our jobs as much as we think. A YouGov poll in 2017 found that just six per cent of those surveyed actively detest the role which pays their wages while, encouragingly, 62% either like or love their job.
But if you can’t stand your job then the Monday blues can be very real. It can start on Sunday evening with feelings of dread and a depression about the five days ahead.
Tuesday is the most popular day for sending out job applications, possibly after following a pretty miserable first day of the working week.
Knowing and loving your place
Unless you work alone, your place of employment can involve a set-up where you interact with the same group of people for around eight hours a day.
Over time, relationships establish and depending on the different ranks of your colleagues, you eventually find a place within that working group. If it’s a positive relationship, spending the weekend away from it can give a sense of detachment and wondering what different colleagues are doing in your absence from them.
Monday is the ideal time to catch up with all the weekend news and reaffirming your place in the office gang. But if something happens to stop this, it can upset the equilibrium and leave you feeling negative.
As part of a 2011 study into Mondays, long before social distancing due to Covid-19 was in place, clinical psychologist Professor Alex Gardner said:
“Work could be the best place for you on Monday because we are essentially cavemen in city suits.
"We want to feel part of the tribe so we go for a cup of tea catch up and then settle down to work.
"Having done the tribal bonding, we are geared up for a productive week while some people who have started all guns blazing on a Monday morning may burn themselves out.”
So catch up with your crew as soon as possible on Monday morning. That first contact is thought to set you up for the day of work ahead.
Mondays, then, don’t have to be hell. It’s how we choose to handle them that matters.