BY VICTORIA SILVERMAN
I’m writing this on Blue Monday during Dry January, and I’m wondering how all these definitions around a point of time entered the public consciousness. Where do the ideas come from? How do they gather pace and popularity in culture?
If you’re blue like me and failing at Dry January, it’s worth considering.
Dry January became a tradition in the UK about a decade ago, and was claimed as a public health campaign by Alcohol Concern in 2014.
The Canadian cultural theorist Malcolm Gladwell believes that small ideas reach a tipping point and spread between individuals in the same way a disease becomes an epidemic.
Epidemiology describes the tipping point as the time at which you can no long control a disease.
This sets me thinking (not drinking, it is Dry January). Another popular name for a phenomenon that’s gathering pace is the Snowflake Generation, the name that older people use to dismiss younger people as entitled.
I’ve spent many moments this festive season around my kitchen table fending off relatives who want to condemn someone’s youngster because he or she refuses to take a job that’s soul crushing.
“Oh, they’re just part of this whole Snowflake Generation,” they moaned. “They should get any job and have a miserable life like me.”
What rubbish. This generation has borne the pain of the epidemic of cancer that effects 50 per cent of us. They’ve watched as parents, friends’ parents and aunts and uncles kiss them goodbye, leaving them letters to open on their 18th birthdays, as good mates become dust.
Those young people have, in my experience, resolved to make every moment matter. On top of this they have felt the bombs of pain of their grandparents and great parents falling away into ether of the silent epidemic, dementia.
This is the strongest most resourceful generation I have ever met. I went as an observer to One Young World Summit in Ottawa in 2016, which brings together leaders under 40. I saw just how great they are. Some of them come from pretty terrible countries, but they are determined to change the world and make it better for others.
Young people are one reason to feel grateful.
The advice around Blue Monday is that you should write down three things you feel thankful for. Try it, it raises your spirits.
Another is the NHS. My mum broke her hip recently. Admittedly, it took an hour for the ambulance to arrive, but once on her way, she was assessed and operated on the same day. She now has a new hip and the physios should have her up and walking within a week.
She was laughing and flirting with the doctors and nurses in just two days.
The horror stories about emergency medicine in the media were unfounded in my mum’s case, although the A&E doctors said they were coping with more demand than ever before, and sending people home with injuries like a broken wrist to wait a month in pain for an operation they would have had the same day a couple of years ago.
My second reason to be grateful is that I have another birthday on Saturday. I remember moaning last year to a friend of mine from Poland. She grew up not far from the site of the Russian nuclear reactor Chernobyl, which exploded in 1986 and the Russian authorities tried to hide.
She believes that as a consequence of playing outside she has suffered cancer twice before the age of 30. She said: “You are so lucky to have another birthday. How dare you moan about how old you are getting. Just feel lucky.”
So this year, with no fanfare, I’m going to feel happy as the greying hair, the sagging boobs and the wrinkles gather pace.
It’s not Blue Monday. If we’re alive, we have something to be grateful for. If we live in the UK with its creaking ambulance service, we still have amazing paramedics, doctors, nurses, porters, physios, managers and cleaners in our hospitals.
It is dry January, and that’s a good thing. Just a shame I can’t have a gin and tonic on my birthday. Still, I’ll raise a glass to gratitude in February. We all should.
Victoria Silverman is founder of BeTeenUs.com online community for the parents of teenagers.