Winter weather got you down? Join the club. “When the days get short and there’s not a lot of sunlight, it’s very natural for people to have a certain degree of—if not depression, at least sadness, moodiness, and lethargy," says Joseph Rock, PsyD, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic. "It's like emotional hibernation.” Read: The reason it's that much harder to get out of bed in the morning, or prioritize a workout over a Netflix marathon.
The good news? That slump is probably not full-blown seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is still a real subset of depression, Rock explains. Shorter days with less sunlight shift our internal biological clocks by skewing the brain’s balance of melatonin and serotonin (the neurotransmitter and hormone that help regulate mood, sleep, and ability to handle stress). But according to a recent study from Oregon State University, weather patterns were more likely to have a small or moderate effect on mood than they were to bring about full-blown depression.
Think of the “winter blues” on a spectrum, Rock says. The best indicator your seasonal moodiness tips to the SAD side of that spectrum: your symptoms are unbearable or they interfere with your life. Read on to learn whether your winter woes are a serious concern--or just an excuse to spend more time on the couch.