Some half a million people in the United States experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Symptoms of the condition, also known as winter-onset depression, include anxiety, fatigue, and irritability, and the problems may keep coming back every winter.
The disorder is thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight that some people experience during the winter. It also may be an evolutionary remnant of human hibernation, according to columnist Carol Venolia in Utne Reader’s sister publication, Natural Home magazine. As recently as the early 20th century, Venolia writes that peasants in both Russia and France would shut themselves in for the cold months, huddling around the stove and barely moving until the spring thaw.
Venolia advocates giving into our hibernation tendencies, at least a little bit. If we did, “We’d sleep more and demand less from ourselves. We’d be more inward and reflective.”