In 2005, psychologist Cliff Arnall came up with a formula which looked at various factors, including winter weather conditions, post-Christmas money woes, the amount of time since Christmas and the fact that we all hate Monday, and decided that the third Monday of January, is the most depressing day of the year.
Since then it has become known as Blue Monday and crops up every year even though it has actually been proved to be a myth. A travel company actually paid for the research Arnall did in an attempt to convince people to book more holidays to cure their winter misery.
However, for some people, the winter blues aren’t a trivial thing.
For most of them, they start around October, with symptoms lifting by April. It manifests as winter doldrums, the “I-can’t-wait-for-winter-to-end” feeling that produces mild but manageable sluggishness and food cravings.
However, 7 per cent of people, according to the HSE, are affected by seasonal affective disorder, which has the rather apt acronym SAD. It is related to changes in the seasons, which interrupt your biological clock’s normal rhythm. It is typically diagnosed after at least two consecutive years of intense symptoms.
SAD is most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight and daylight hours in winter, which affects the hormones – namely melatonin and serotonin – in the part of your brain that controls your mood, sleep and appetite. It is particularly common in people who live furthest from the equator.
The American Psychiatric Association found 10-20 per cent of people in the US feel more depressed during the winter. However, a true diagnosis of SAD is less common, at around 1-10 percent.
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