As we slowly progress from the bright, burnished days of fall to the cold of the winter, it's no surprise that our moods start getting darker too.
Just exactly why weather affects us so severely, though, is still a matter of controversy. Some scientists say that the culprit is serotonin -- the chemical that makes us happy -- which controlled by the amount of light we receive. When there's a lack of light, serotonin converts into melatonin, which controls our sleep. Consequently, come winter, we become sadder and sleepier.
But researchers based in Norway have found that in Scandinavian countries, seasonal affective disorder affects people during spring and summer, but not as much during the winter months, thereby calling into question the light-brain-chemical theory.
HuffPost blogger and SAD pioneer Dr. Norman Rosenthal suggests making a plan to cope with the brutal winter months. "Compensate for the lack of sunlight. Find a room in your house where you get sunlight, and spend time in it. Get out and exercise. Enjoy the extra hour of sunlight in the morning," he says. We're also less resilient and more likely to be affected by stress so Dr. Rosenthal suggests finding time to meditate.
But when, as a collective population, are we likely to be saddest? While no official data exists, there are times of the year that are well-known for their depression-inducing qualities. Take a look.
Dr. Rosenthal says that there is a "special sadness about autumn." Particularly cold autumn days tend to come as a rude shock when you're still in the summer mindset. "We just had a bad snowstorm. When you have a bad autumn, you're not prepared for it. You think winter is stil six weeks away, but it's actually right around the corner," says Dr. Rosenthal.
When you're out at a party that first Saturday of November, you're usually excited about the extra hour of sleep you'll get when the clock goes back an hour. Later that week, though, daylight savings time will mean that you'll see the sun for an hour less every evening -- especially if you're not hitting the outdoors at 7 A.M. every morning.
According to Dr. Rosenthal, post-Christmas can be a stressful time for many. "People are usually buoyed by the thought of the holidays. But after, when you have go back to your dreary job with nothing to look forward to, it can be very depressing," he says.
According to British psychologist Cliff Arnall, the third Monday of January is the saddest day of the year. Arnall's prediction is based on a scientific formula that takes into account the dreary weather, debt from the holidays and broken New Year's resolutions. This year, that date was January 17.
"Spring is a terrible tease," says Dr. Rosenthal. "You get a warm day or two and you start thinking that winter is over. You think you'll be able to put on all your summer clothes, but actually, there's usually a lot of dreary weather still left," he says. Spring is usually the last stretch before summer kicks in, and waiting for it to get over can make one feel surprisingly low.