January always brings so-called Blue Monday, which is allegedly the most depressing day of the year. This year, let’s turn Blue Monday into Brew Monday.
Based on a number of factors, such as the weather, the month, people’s financial situations and the comedown from Christmas, the third Monday of January earns a spot as the day most people are likely to feel depressed. Yep, it’s Blue Monday. The charity Samaritans are raising awareness about the importance of talking by promoting ‘Brew Monday’, campaigning for people to reach out and have a conversation over a cup of tea, whether in person or virtually.
The impact of reaching out
*Name(s) have been changed for privacy
Last week, I was sat on my sofa having my weekly Facetime catch up with a family member. While we were deep in conversation, I heard an almighty crash from outside, which was also heard by my sister-in-law on the phone. Concerned, I whipped open my curtains and witnessed a hit and run.
A van had reversed into a parked motorbike on my street, before immediately driving off after he realised what he’d done. Unfortunately for him, my sister-in-law (who had witnessed the scene through the magic of Facetime) had screenshotted the incident, while I managed to nab the details of the van as it drove away.
I saw the owner of the motorbike rush out just as the van drove off, as well as her elderly mother and a few other neighbours. I went outside and let the woman know that I’d caught the details of the offender, and she thanked me and asked me to keep the pictures on my phone.
She was understandably upset, and wanted to focus on her poor motorbike, so I let her know I’d keep the evidence and that I’d be a witness to the event should they require one for insurance purposes.
An unusual turn of events brings a new friend
The next day, I normally would have been at work, but weirdly, there ended up being some sort of traffic incident that led to my usually-20-minute-drive to work looking like an hour long. My editor and I agreed it was best for me to go back home and work from there. And try again in a couple of hours once the traffic had died down. This was the only reason I ended up being at home on a Wednesday morning, and is the reason I have a new friend.
Not ten minutes after arriving back home – and in a bit of a mood about the half an hour I’d wasted sat in traffic – my doorbell rang. Very unusual for nine o’clock in the morning. When I opened it, I found the elderly mother of the motorbike owner at my door, with a bunch of flowers in her shopping trolley.
She introduced herself as June*, and thanked me profusely for my help the night before – not that I felt I’d done much. She also gave me her daughter’s mobile number, and asked if I wouldn’t mind sending the pictures of the incident to her. I agreed, and thanked her again for the gorgeous flowers, before I watched her walk back to her house, not a 10 second walk from my own, and smiled at the coincidence that had allowed me to have this conversation with her this morning. I put my flowers in vase, feeling as though my day had perked up slightly from my stressful morning.
It made my day when she said ‘you’re such a lovely girl, I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done.’
By the time I’d finished a Zoom meeting and had made myself a coffee, it was about an hour later. I attempted to send the images and details of the van to June’s daughter, but I kept being met with an ‘unknown number’ notification. Only then did I realise June had given me the wrong number – she’d only written down 10 digits instead of 11.
I popped over to her house to let her know about her mistake and to note down the actual number. When I got there, June immediately invited me in. We had a little discussion about the events of the night before, I got the correct number, and then I made to leave. June walked me to the door, where we ended up continuing our conversation for a further five minutes, her stood in the doorway, me stood outside on the doorstep.
“June,” I said, “would you like me to come back in? I’m worried you’re letting all the heat out!”
“Oh yes, do come in! Have a seat,” she ordered.
Cementing the friendship
45 minutes later, after a full tour of June’s home, an introduction of all her family members via their photographs on the wall, and the story of how her and her husband had moved her in the 80s – the conversations speckled with little bits of neighbourly gossip – I left June’s home. I asked her if she would like me to leave my phone number with her, in case she wanted to keep me updated about the motorbike, or just fancied a chat.
“I’d love that, ducky. Do you mind putting it in my phone for me? My daughter usually does stuff like that – I haven’t a clue how to do those things!”
I happily obliged, and made sure to let her know that if she ever needed me to pop to the shops for her, help around the house, or drive her anywhere, she just had to let me know.
“Or, of course, if you just fancy a cup of tea and a natter, you know where I am!” I said as I walked out the door.
“Oh no, I don’t drink tea.” June responded seriously. “Only black coffee or a gin and tonic for me!” She giggled and gave me a tap on the arm.
“That suits me!” I said.
The emotional impact
I knew I’d made her day by spending that time with her, letting her talk about her grandchildren and her marriage. While her daughters visit often, and she has a few friends on the street, the fact is she spends most of the day alone in her home watching the television. She must have valued having someone else over to while away a bit of the time, and it made me feel good too, hearing another’s life stories.
The next day, I was off to do a big shop, so I popped over and asked if she needed anything. She assured me that she’d already been out and picked up some bits, but thanked me all the same. After a 10 minute chat – in which she gushed over my Mini Cooper and laughed about how much bigger it is compared to the one she owned in the sixties – June looked at me sheepishly.
“Do you think I could give you a cuddle, ducky? You’re such a lovely girl, I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done.” Of course I obliged, and since then we’ve spoken almost every day.
If I happen to speak to her around 5pm, she’ll let me know she’s just about to have a gin and tonic and that she’ll be thinking of me when she drinks it.
She often thanks me ‘for all I do’, but in reality, I’m not doing much. A five minute phone call here and then and a chat outside her house takes no effort and barely any time from me, but for her, it means the world.
Make the effort
You never know your neighbour’s circumstances, and you can’t ever truly know how someone is feeling. It is imperative to make an effort with people, both friends and strangers, as you just might make their day. I would like to think someone would do the same for me – in fact I’m lucky to have friends and family that do.
Of course, I never intended to make a 84-year-old friend last week. But through unprecedented circumstances, I’ve gained one, and it’s been valuable for us both.
A wave, a smile, a cup of tea (or gin and tonic) can do the world of good for someone. Every person has different experiences of life and you can gain so much through a conversation. Lightening someone’s load while learning new things seems to be a win-win situation to me.
Check on your friends, check on your family members, and check on your neighbours. Likewise, reach out to people if you need to. You don’t have to spill your woes, but simply knowing someone is there to chat over a brew can inject that much needed serotonin in your life.
A cup of tea can make a huge difference!
According to the Samaritans website, “we know there’s no such thing as ‘Blue Monday’ – we all have our good days and our bad days, and those aren’t for the calendar to decide.” They’re encouraging people to connect with people to share how they feel over a nice warm cup of tea. It’s partincularly important as friendships have changed over lockdown too.
Why is Brew Monday important?
Thankfully, mental health awareness is increasing over time, but some of us are still a bit uncertain when it comes to openly discussing our emotions. Now, we’re not suggesting a cup of tea will solve your problems, but having a conversation with someone can truly start the powerful journey of healing.
A cup of tea is not always just a cup of tea. It can be the difference between a good day and a bad day, particularly if you are sharing the time with someone.
It’s not a substitute for therapy, and if you feel you are suffering and would like to seek professional help or support, we have provided helpful links at the bottom of this page to help you.
Get the most out of your cuppa
On top of the emotional advantages to sharing a brew and some time with someone, there are physical benefits to be had to drinking tea too.
According to dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton at the Tea Advisory Panel, data shows that: “eight in 10 British adults say drinking tea helps them to combat stress, with a third (35%) get comfort from a cuppa that helps to reduce frustration. Even the act of putting on the kettle creates a feeling of relaxation, according to six in 10 (58%) adults in the research poll we reviewed.
“Tea is nature’s de-stressor thanks to compounds in the tea plant which are released when we make a brew. Firstly, black, and green teas contain plant polyphenols which relax and open up the blood vessel which supply the brain, leading to an influx of nutrients and oxygen. Secondly, black tea uniquely contains a substance called L-theanine which makes us feel calm and focussed at the same time. It’s probably that which delivers the feeling of calm we enjoy when we sit down with a warming cuppa.”
Why not make Brew Monday a weekly or monthly activity? You could play card games, do some crafts, or just sit and watch the TV for half an hour. You don’t have to sit and talk the whole time.
Don’t forget the plethora of teas available now. For the price of your PG Tips you could try fruit teas, or even decaffeinated teas if you’re on a caffeine detox. Have a look at the health benefits to each tea and pick ones that seem beneficial to you.
You could make a bit of a plan out of it, trying a different flavour each time you see your tea buddy. Your options are limitless!
If you are being affected by any negative thoughts or feelings, or would like some additional support, follow the resources below and contact your GP.
Carly gets to do everything under the sun, including writing, editing, taking photos, creating stories, and swanning around at launches. She can down a glass of Prosecco without pausing for breath, and aims to be the youngest Pulitzer winner ever.