Every year, I wonder what's wrong with me: Where has my enthusiasm gone? Why do I feel like such a failure? Then sometime around mid October the penny drops: It's autumn! I suffer from SAD - that's why I'm feeling rubbish. You'd think I'd learn, wouldn't you?
This year, I noticed something else, though. While my motivation for things that I
ought to be doing (fixing the conservatory roof; publicity for Wild West Wales) was rock bottom, I was quite happy foraging and preparing food for storage. These can be quite tedious tasks, but I had no problem motivating myself to wash and dry laver, or to peel and chop a whole carrier bag full of apples that a friend gave me.
This made me wonder about the nature of seasonal depression. It's always struck me as evolutionarily implausible that so many people should feel sluggish for quite such a large proportion of the year. I could understand it in the darkest, coldest months, when hibernation looks like a good strategy, but SAD often kicks in with the rapidly shortening days, particularly around the equinox in September. I wonder whether it's not actually a general depression, but a switch in motivation to food gathering and storage, at the expense of everything else. In our modern world, there's not much opportunity to express that single preoccupation, so all we see is the loss of motivation to do anything else.
Like much of evolutionary psychology, this has more than a hint of the just-so story about it, but it does make a testable prediction: If I could focus all my energy on food gathering and storage throughout September, October and November, and not worry about doing anything else, then I wouldn't feel depressed. I wonder if it would be possible to arrange my life that way?