I always look forward to my Sundays: there is something luxurious about them – knowing that I get to sleep in, indulge in a lazy breakfast, and go about my day at a slower pace.
Mondays, though? Don’t even get me started on those.
If you have different feelings associated with the days of the week, you are not alone. The phenomenon is more common than expected.
According to a study conducted by a team of university psychologists, participants recorded that their perceptions of Mondays felt negative, while their associations with Fridays were positive. These results showed that “Mondays and Fridays are less confusable because their mental representations are rich and distinctive, forming two extremes along a continuum of change.” In other words, your mood becomes more positive throughout the week.
The researchers assumed – correctly – that Monday and Friday would be the most distinctive days of the ‘work week’ and that the days in between would hold less significance. They proved this when respondents felt as if it were a different day of the week almost 40% of the time from Tuesday-Thursday.
From this study, researchers thought that it would be likely that respondents would mix up Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday more often than other days of the week. The result? They were correct.
Finally, researchers asked participants to associate a word with each day of the week. Unsurprisingly, respondents were unable to come up with as many varied words for Tuesday-Thursday as they were for Monday and Friday.
The words the participants chose were not included in the study itself. However, each word association was rated on three bipolar dimensions: pleasure (unhappy to happy), arousal (calm to excited), and dominance (controlled to in control).
Mondays and Tuesdays ranked high on the dominance scale and low on the pleasure scale, for example, while Thursdays and Fridays ranked higher in pleasure and arousal.
As a result of these findings, researchers were able to conclude that the mental representations of Monday and Friday are abundant in associations – more so than the middle of the week – while Monday was abundant and negative while Friday was abundant and positive.
So, how can we make it feel like a Friday all week?
First, the good news: when it is Monday, it is Monday for everyone, not just you.
While scientists were able to determine the length of days and years by our rotation and orbit around the sun, the concept of a “week” is an entirely human invention.
It is believed to have begun around as little as 2,000 years ago. Ever since, the idea of a weekly schedule, and thus differentiating the days of the week, has existed.
Ingrained in our psyche is the idea that Sunday is a day of rest. That every two weeks is pay day. That the mail is only delivered from Monday-Friday.
Once the concept of weekly schedules, falling on certain days of the week, became entrenched in society, it became impossible to revert to any other way.
According to David Henkin, the Margaret Byrne Professor of History at the University of California Berkeley,
“US businesses starting in the late 19th century promoted calendar-reform schemes designed to eliminate the bookkeeping inefficiencies caused by the recalcitrant seven-day cycle (the only timekeeping unit that does not fit neatly into a larger one). Shortly thereafter, Soviet economic planners, objecting to the way a coordinated weekend prevented continuous factory production, introduced shorter working weeks and assigned different segments of the population to different weekly schedules. All of these plans failed.”
Needless to say, it appears that the concept of weeks, and therefore distinctive days, are here to stay.
Next time you feel blue on a Monday, identify why. Is it because it’s the start of a work week at a job you hate? Is it because you are sensitive to others’ feelings and can pick up on their Monday moodiness?
According to Meg Gitlin, the psychotherapist behind City Therapist on Instagram (@citytherapist), “People like to think of weekends as a time of rest and rejuvenation, where in reality, many of us cram as much in as possible ― eating and drinking too much and going to sleep later than usual.” This means that come Monday, the rest and relaxation we were supposed to indulge in on the weekend was forgotten. As a result, Monday could feel particularly sluggish, especially if your sleeping habits changed on Friday or Saturday night – or both.
Alternatively, you may feel you lost a sense of freedom come Monday, after a particularly relaxing weekend.
Maybe you not only have to prepare for your Monday-Friday job, but also the school week of your kids, your partner’s schedule, and so on. It is true: our culture has trained us to dislike Mondays, whether your schedule begins on a Monday or not.
Remember that this is just a moment in time. The day of the week, despite its semantic associations, should not define how you feel. Stay grounded. Remember that bad times will pass. Keep in mind that technically we live in a 24/7 world now, so the idea that one day of the week is superior than another could be on the way out.
Interestingly, the researchers who conducted the study never considered to ask about perceptions of weekends. They assumed – again, correctly – that the weekends, being so distinctive in themselves, would not be subject to mismatches as midweek days were.
Unfortunately, Monday will always come around again. And again. The only thing you can do to prevent any more Monday blues is to identify the problem and rectify it. Try preparing your lunch or outfit ahead of time. Explore options and different jobs. Try to remember it’s not just you. And, if that is not possible, it is always helpful to remember that time is just a human construct, and this is but a moment in time.