The Winter Blues
As many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from some form of winter blues Here are five ways the gloomy weather messes with your spirits.
You Feel Down.
There’s a reason all the darkness gets you down: Light has the ability to fire up your brain’s serotonin levels, just like an antidepressant does, says Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., one of the leading experts on seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So the opposite—a lack of sunlight—means you’re missing out on the happy neurotransmitter.
You’re Constantly Wiped Out.
A study published in Emotion compared the daily diaries of 1,233 people with weather reports and found less-than-ideal temperatures, winds, and hours of sunlight put some people in bad moods. The lack of sunlight specifically made them more tired, most likely because levels of sleep-inducing melatonin are higher on short days.
You’re Anxious and Stressed.
You know those times when you’re in a daze staring at the computer screen at work without really getting anything done? It could be the result of the low energy that hovers over you from Halloween until spring. Before you know it, you could fall behind on your work. Pair that with an uptick in anxiety, and it’s no wonder you’re a stress case.
You Feel Antisocial.
It’s a vicious circle: You have no energy, so you flake out on your dinner plans and stay home, even though socializing would have made you feel better, Rosenthal says.
Your Brain Is Foggy.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tracked brain activity during each of the four seasons and found that in the winter, study participants performed the worst on a task requiring sustained attention.
If the symptoms worsen—you’re not sleeping or you’re completely unable to work—you may be one of the 5 percent of people with seasonal affective disorder. Your risk depends on the climate where you live, but other things can play a role, such as whether you battle depression and your gender. Women between ages of 20 and 40 are twice as likely to have SAD than men.
“When spring comes, it all tends to get better,” he adds.