It's pretty much accepted that gloomy winter weather makes people feel more bummed out or tired (especially around the holidays). But in my experience, what's even more depressing than gross weather is when the sun finally starts shining, the temperatures start to climb, and I still feel like crap.
After all, if it's pouring rain outside, I have the weather as an excuse for a bad mood, or, at least, the elements reflect how I feel. But when it's gorgeous outside, it's as if the sun is gaslighting my emotions.
As it turns out, I'm not the only one who feels this way.
"Many people seek treatment for mental health in the spring because people, in general, do less during the winter. So now when everyone is out doing things, your symptoms and the impairment in functioning become more visible and are a stark contrast in comparison," she says.
In other words, if everyone around you is feeling great, it might magnify any symptoms of depression you might have and even make you feel guilty for feeling crappy, she says.
In fact, several studies have suggested that suicide rates spike in the spring and summer, though Dr. McGinn says that it's unclear why exactly that may be. There could be several reasons: Someone might be ashamed, as she said, of feeling low when everyone else seems happy. Or they may have already been going through depression in the winter, and the spring weather has given them a boost of energy that propels them to act.
Dr. McGinn also says weather-related mood changes might be triggered by certain memories or experiences you might associate with the weather. If, for example, you lost a family member during the spring, you might always associate the turn of the season with a sense of grief.
When everyone is out doing things, your symptoms and the impairment in functioning become more visible.
Lata McGinn, PhD
But no matter the reason or the season, it's okay to be sad. Your feelings don't discriminate based on the temperature outside. And Dr. McGinn says that if you catch yourself feeling ashamed for not being as peppy as everyone around you, try to remind yourself that your own expectations could be getting the best of you.
"First, accept that you are feeling bad and tell yourself not to judge yourself for feeling bad," she says. "There is no problem that you can’t make worse by judging yourself for it."
That's solid advice: Giving into a bad mood and accepting how you feel might go a long way towards making you feel better in the long run. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology last year found that wallowing, or as the authors put it, emotional acceptance, might really help get you out of an emotional rut.
What's also helpful? Not comparing yourself to others.
"Don’t assume you know what everyone else is feeling," Dr. McGinn says. "You cannot read their minds, so it is possible that 'everyone' is not feeling good. They may just be out doing things."
And, you might feel better if you start by going out and doing things even when you don't feel like it.
"Use your low mood as a signal that you need to do the opposite of how you feel," Dr. McGinn says. "Waiting until you are in a good mood to go out doesn’t work, because moods change when you do something and not the other way around."
But if that doesn't seem to be doing the trick, or you find yourself feeling low for long periods of time, it might be a sign of something bigger.
"If your mood is persistently down, and you are having a hard time summoning up the energy, interest, or will to do things that are helpful (like going out and seeing people), then it may be that you are depressed or anxious, and it is time to seek help," Dr. McGinn says.
The important thing to know is that your feelings are valid no matter what time of year it is, and that if you need help, you can ask for it.
If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
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