Always disappointed when summer ends? And feel more and more miserable as autumn creeps inevitably into winter?

The winter blues can be mild, but can also signify more serious issues.

Why do I hate winter so much?

It can be partially genetic. Research by anthropologists found that our ability to navigate the cold can be hereditary. Those who had lived in cold weather for generations have evolved to have higher levels of brown fat that helps them manage in cold weather, or higher BMIs that mean they heat up faster.

An aversion to weather can also be psychological. If, for example, you hated school as a child, summer would equal happiness to you, not winter. Or perhaps you were forced to leave a warm country you loved due to war or otherwise and now cold reminds you of loss.

And hating winter be genetic and psychological if you have what’s known as ‘seasonal affective disorder’. This means that you were born with a tendency to be depressed when the days get shorter and there is less sunlight.

Just the winter blues, or depression?

The blues happen. It means that for a few weeks or even a month, we are a bit grumpy, tired, and generally not ourselves. Something, or a series of things, happened that made us feel low. But then we bounce back.

Depression means we don’t bounce back. It goes on for six weeks or more. And depression can often have no exact cause.

The different kinds of depression

Mild depression is an ongoing numbness. You can keep going, but you feel flat, uninspired, and zombie-like, with what's sometimes called ‘walking depression’.

Moderate depression can be increasingly debilitating. You can lose interest in activities and even people that before you really liked. Sleep and eating habits can change. Your head can feel foggy, your body heavy. Getting to work or school can start to feel more and more of a challenge.

And if you have dark thoughts of hurting yourself or another person, it’s not the blues, it’s severe depression. And it’s very important to reach out for help.

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Do you have moderate depression that seems to hit at the exact same time each year? When the weather slides into autumn? And does it lift in spring, when the days start to get a bit longer?

Seasonal affective disorder is depression that:

  • starts with darker, shorter days
  • lifts when days get brighter and longer
  • is worst in the middle of winter (December to February in the UK)
  • has gone on for least two years or more.

SAD is thought to be connected to the way your brain genetically produces melatonin and serotonin, and to your ‘circadian rhythm’. This is the way your body uses sunlight to manage certain things, such as when you wake up.

Read more on the NHS pages about seasonal affective disorder.

What can help my winter blues?

If you think you have SAD, then it’s important to make time to get outside when sunny, and to exercise and eat well. You might also want to try ‘light therapy’, a special lamp that mimics sunlight and that the NHS recommends.

Therapy is also recommended for both general depression and seasonal affective disorder, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a short-term therapy where the focus is on helping you recognise and change your negative thoughts before they throw you into a low mood cycle.

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