Depressing January

Posted on Saturday 7th January 2012 at 18:18
As someone who loves the festive season, I'm always surprised to find that not everyone does. For me, the idea that Christmas is wonderful is utterly unquestionable, yet as far as I can tell, almost as many people don't like it as do. One thing everyone seems to agree on though, is that January (and February and March if we're honest) is a depressing time of year. But why?

As a child, I have clear memories of that feeling of post Christmas deflation. For me it tended to start pretty much as soon as the last present was unwrapped. It wasn't that I didn't get what I wanted or was ungrateful, it was just that the waiting and surprise were both over and real life was gradually resuming. In more recent years, Christmas has been less about the presents and more about the whole day, so I no longer find my excitement ebbing away as the wrapping paper gets cleared up.

However, the more able I am at coping with the Christmas anti-climax, the more I seem to notice it's bigger meaner cousin, the January Blues. I don't really remember them in my childhood at all, but with every year that goes passed, I dread the period between Christmas and Easter more and more. I know lots of people who find it a depressing time, but, aside from those who have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), why is this the case, and what can we do about it?

Most people blame it on the weather, and why not? After all, it's not a pretty picture. Wind, rain, storms, snow (if you're lucky) and never ending coldness. Hang on a minute though? Don't we all live in heated houses these days? And drive heated cars? And wear thick, warm clothes that protect us from the weather? In fact, now that I think about it, because I work at home, the only time I actually go out is on days like today, when I chose to spend a few hours hiking across Dartmoor, loving the feel of the bitterly cold wind making my face go numb.

Ok, so what about daylight levels? True, our body clocks are controlled by light levels and nothing puts a smile on our faces like bright sunshine, but we do have electric lights these days, and actually, the sun shines almost as much during the Winter as during the Summer, here in Plymouth. Admittedly that isn't a lot, but the change surely isn't dramatic enough to cause this much moodiness?

Another theory is that it's the lack of anything much to look forward to for those few months. Well, I'm not sure I do less of anything now than I do during the Summer. In fact, I usually do exactly the same sorts of things as I would in the Summer, so no change there. Besides, I like working. I like it enough to find distractions like good weather and social activities in the Summer rather annoying. I like being able to get my head down and work uninterrupted for a few months of the year.

I don't know what the answer is, I really don't. I don't make New Year Resolutions, so have no reason to be disappointed when I fail to keep them. I'm less fat than I expected to be after Christmas, my bills are all monthly direct debits, so no massive January utility bill shocks, my car tax isn't due for another month and petrol has come down recently. The fact is that life is bleeding well exactly the same as it was last month, but with lots of space in my living room where there was once a ridiculous tree.

Am I just pathetic, or is there a reason for the January Depression? Do you have a way of dealing with it? Should I just decide it's the weather and go on holiday to somewhere sunny til April?

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