Feeling down? You’re not alone.
Years ago Cliff Arnall, a tutor at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at Cardiff University, declared January to be the most depressing month of the year. “Following the initial thrill of New Year’s celebrations and changing over a new leaf,” Arnall said, “reality starts to sink in.” His study cited weather, debt, time elapsed since Christmas, average hours of daylight and unsuccessful New Year’s resolutions” as the reasons for the slump and named the third Monday of the month Blue Monday, the single most depressing day of the year.
Whether Arnall’s “sadness algorithm” passes scientific muster remains to be seen but there’s no denying January can be dispiriting. This year Cineplex is offering up a way to beat the January blahs—cheap movies. On January 18 Scene card members can redeem just 500 points to see any movie at Cineplex, from general admission auditoriums all the way up to the fancy-dancy VIP Cinemas.
In a recent survey Canada’s largest film exhibitor discovered 45% of Canadians say they typically feel rested after watching a movie while 38% say they feel “less stressed, like I took a mini vacation.”
Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar Emeritus at the University of Florida Dr. Norman Holland is an expert in psychoanalytic criticism and cognitive poetics, which in layman’s terms means he has made a study of how our brains translate activities like going to the cinema into pleasure. “It’s restful, no question,” he says.
“The parts of your brain that turn off are the parts that plan action because you’re not going to act on what you see on the screen in front of you. You turn off the systems that plan, that look ahead that evaluate futures. That explains the phenomenon of the willing suspension of disbelief. You accept the most improbable things, like Stars Wars or Spider-Man. At the same time the lower centres of your brain are generating emotions like mad in response to what you’re seeing. This is the peculiar phenomenon that you can feel and care about these people on the screen while at the same time knowing they are nothing but a fiction.”
The Cineplex survey indicates that when feeling blue 78% of Canadians look to funny movies to cheer them up. “We don’t want Ingmar Bergman on Blue Monday,” says Dr. Holland. “The idea is to do something for yourself. Do something that pleases you.”
Overall, according to Cineplex, Canada’s top two comfort movies are the Robin Williams comedy Mrs. Doubtfire and Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Men chose the uplifting prison break movie The Shawshank Redemption as their favourite feel good flick.
Dr. Holland isn’t surprised the top movies are old favourites featuring big stars. “Familiar characters, familiar faces,” he says. “They’re people we’ve had good experiences with before and can expect [to have] good experiences with again.”
So what would the good doctor go see on Blue Monday? “8 ½ by Fellini,” he says. It’s a fanciful movie that engages both the emotional and intellectual sides of the brain. “I love Fellini.”