My favourite books of 2023

I love reading! It’s one of my great joys in life that I feel really

  • nourishes my soul
  • gives me time out
  • helps me escape reality
  • takes me on journeys to new places
  • broadens my understanding of others…………..

In no particular order, here are my favourites from my 2023 reads.

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and the Sun

A story told from the unique perspective of a solar-powered AI life-size ‘doll’ designed to be a child’s companion, Klara makes sense of the world the best way she can – and of course develops a more sophisticated knowledge all the time (there’s plenty of the reference to ‘the black oblongs’) that people’s attention is so caught by).

We don’t know any more about the world than Klara knows, so only have glimpses of a dystopian world where children need to undergo modification to obtain success.

Hilary Mantel – Fludd

I started reading this and then said to my partner ‘this is a book we need to read to each other’ – because I knew that otherwise I would keep interrupting him to read bits out.

Set in a grim little moorland village in and around a convent and a presbytery with a host of (mostly) dysfunctional or odd characters, Fludd is dark and funny with a flavour of Stella Gibbons ‘Cold Comfort Farm’.

Michael Rosen – Many Different Kinds of Love

Oh… heart is breaking as I just think about this book, a memoir of Michael Rosen’s experience of catching Covid early in the pandemic, and being in intensive care for two months (including being put into an induced coma).

It is a beautifully moving book made up of his prose poems, excerpts from the diary kept by medical staff and emails from his wife to family members. It of course reminds us AGAIN of the incredible, normal  humans who make up the NHS.

Sara Sheridan – Where are the Women?

A clever tour guide to an imagined Scotland where women’s contributions to the world are prized, celebrated and memorialised to the same extent as men’s.

The book is broken up into sections for different cities or parts of the countries, and each section includes a description of the building, statue or other monument and a brief history of the (real) woman it celebrates. Some do exist (Lady Stair’s Close, Edinburgh), some have been renamed (Edinburgh castle becomes St Margaret’s Castle), some have new landmarks created for them.

A fantastic and clever route to learning more about some of the really important women in Scottish history.

S R Crockett – The Raiders

If you like a good rip-roaring, swash-buckling historical novel, this could be a book for you. Chosen for our Bookgroup weekend away in Galloway, it’s set between the Solway Coast and the wild Galloway hills and includes smugglers, outlaws and cattle-thieving.

The narrator (a man) doesn’t have a particularly high opinion of himself, and the story features plenty strong intelligent women – even though the book was published in 1893. Most of all I love how the landscape features in this book.

In May I tried to recreate the route that the narrator takes, wild camping en route – but was defeated by the terrain and infamous Galloway bog……

Steve Silberman – Neurotribes

This is a fantastic and fascinating history of the neurodiversity movement; it’s a big book but an engaging and interesting read.

Silberman explores the various attempts to ‘cure’ or treat neurodiversity and how much a neurotypical viewpoint has dominated (surprise surprise), but also looks at the way forward for a society that is more humane, supportive and facilitative towards people who learn and process in all our different ways.

Honoree Fanonne Jeffers – The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois

Amazing, multi-generational epic novel set in Georgia, USA. I had to take a deep breath to embark on this 800-page tome, but found it difficult to put down once I started.

The story moves backwards and forwards in time between the life of Ailey, exploring and discovering her identity and family history, and the many generations of her ancestors, some of whom arrived in bondage from Africa, some indigenous Americans, some white settlers.

A wonderful weaving of stories, some tragic, some triumphant, all gripping.

Cal Flynn – Islands of Abandonment

This book is soooooo right up my alley – it’s about abandoned (by humans) spaces that nature has begun to reclaim, moving from Chernobyl’s surroundings, through former war zones, abandoned formerly thriving industrial cities of the US, to a Scottish island roamed by feral cattle left by humans in the 1970s.

As Flynn says “when a place has been altered beyond recognition and all hope seems lost, it might still hold the potential for life of another kind”. Beautifully written, there’s also an audiobook version read by Flynn, who hails from the Scottish Highlands.

Harry Josephine Giles – Deep Wheel Orcadia

This is like no other book I’ve read EVER, never mind this year.

It’s a sci-fi novel, about finding home, set on a space station – written in verse, in Orcadian (the Orkney dialect). It has a parallel translation into English to help those of us who aren’t familiar with Orcadian dialect words.

Sounds demanding? Give it a go – it’s entertaining as a well as a mind-stretch.

Betsy Whyte – The Yellow on the Broom

This was a recommendation from someone responding to a Facebook post I made about the persecution of Travellers in Scotland (which included attempts to ‘educate children out of their nomadic ways’ in the twentieth century).

It’s a wonderful autobiography of Whyte’s childhood as a traveller in Scotland in the 1920s/30s. As well as being a great first-person insight into the life and customs of travellers at that time, it’s also a fascinating snapshot of wider society during that time, including how other people viewed travellers.

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

I’m not sure how I’ve only just read this 20th century classic for the first time. It’s set in a dystopian future where emotions and individuality are conditioned out of people at a young age, and embryos are engineered to develop in such a way that they fulfil different classes in society from ‘Alphas’ (the leaders, intellectuals) to ‘Epsilons’ (the labourers).

I found it really interesting to read this book almost 100 years after it was written, noticing the echoes of the idea that things can be engineered to make us happy in our consumer-focused society today – ‘distract yourself from your natural feelings by buying happiness’. says ‘Much of the anxiety that drives Brave New World can be traced to a widespread belief in the 1920s in technology as a futuristic remedy for problems caused by disease and war’….. unnervingly reminiscent of the way many people today cling to the desperate hope that technology will somehow rescue us from environmental collapse.

Janey Godley – Handstands in the Dark

Janey Godley first won a place in my heart in 2018 when I saw the wonderful photograph of her protesting at Donald Trump’s golf course with a placard reading ‘Trump is a cunt’.

She then made it to National Treasure status during the pandemic with her hilarious yet informative voiceovers of Nicola Sturgeon’s daily public Covid briefings (which Sturgeon herself appreciated). 

I bought this, the first volume of her autobiography earlier in the year when I went to see her ‘Not dead yet’ show. It’s dry, funny and heartbreaking. While not an ‘easy read’ because of the trauma and tragedy it covers (shooting up in the room where your relative’s coffin is laid out, anyone?), it’s gripping and entertaining too.

Amy Liptrot – The Outrun

Another recommendation via Facebook – and another autobiography. Amy Liptrot was born in Orkney and escaped from a complicated family situation to the bright lights of London. After reaching rock bottom in her struggles with alcohol addiction, she returns to Orkney to try and recover, ultimately retreating to Papa Westray – “Britain is an island off Europe, Orkney is an island off Britain, Westray is an island off Orkney, Papay is an island off Westray…”

These are the bare bones of the story but don’t capture the beautiful writing of the book, the way she captures both the descent into alcoholic hell, and the wild and bleak Orkney winter. She is brutally honest and exposing of her pain and struggles.

Ali Smith – Seasonal Quartet

Is it cheating to have four books as one choice? Ali Smith had the idea to write a sequence of books, each dealing with a season, written as quickly as possible, and published as quickly as possible, to be as comtemporaneous as possible.

The book covers (which feature the same view painted by David Hockney during different seasons) were designed before the first manuscript had even been completed (see Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet: an oral history ( )

It just so happened that the period over which she was writing the books took in Brexit, the ramping up of anti-immigrant rhetoric, the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Covid pandemic and the increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. They tell separate stories but are also inter-connected. As I read each one, there would be at least one point where I would say aloud ‘what the hell is going on?’ but I never wanted to stop reading. They’re written with a really light touch and were a particular welcome change whenever I’d finished a book that was rather intense or heavy.

Dr Devon Price – Unmasking Autism (The power of embracing our hidden neurodiversity)

Just brilliant. I’ve recommended this to a number of clients. It’s also a great read for any allistics (neurotypicals) wanting to better understand the autistic experience, or for anyone who feels that they have to hide aspects of themselves – for whatever reason – to be safe or accepted in society.

Dr Price has written a super-accessible book that includes up to date research and personal insights, examining the phenomenon of masking. It’s a passionate rallying cry for the right to be authentic and to resist conformity, and for a society where everyone can be themselves and be allowed to thrive.

And it’s just a really good read.

Lisa Allen-Agostini – The Bread the Devil Knead

I was in the library one day and my partner dropped this in my hands and said ‘this looks like your sort of book’.

It was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2022. It’s a fast-paced, gripping read with a great central character – a 40-yr-old woman who manages a boutique in Port of Spain (Trinidad). She doesn’t fit the typical image of a feminist but absolutely is her own woman (hurrah for pulling down stereotypes!).

Be warned – it tackles domestic abuse, rape and racism in an unsparing, matter-of-fact way. One thing I loved about it was the Trinidadian creole voice that it’s written in, which I hadn’t encountered before – although easy to read, I really enjoyed that there were some words I didn’t know and (if I couldn’t figure it out) I just had to accept that!

Jenni Fagan – The Panopticon

Like ‘The Bread the Devil Knead’, the central character in ‘The Panopticon’ is a unique, unusual (to me) voice. Panopticons were prisons designed to provide constant visibility of all inmates. The one in this book is an institute for adolescent offenders somewhere in central Scotland. The narrator is 15-year-old Anais, who has already had to deal with an awful lot of shit in her short life, including the death of the one foster-mother who she seems to have formed a bond with.

Jenni Fagan herself grew up in local authority care in Scotland, having 29 different placements in her first 16 years before living in homeless accommodation. Her experience may well contribute to Anais’s believable voice.

Anais is in no way a victim; instead she’s a fierce, tough survivor who simply won’t let you pity her. I couldn’t help feeling sorry that she’d had so little love in her life. An amazing, tragic, read.

Frances Quinn – That Bonesetter Woman

A random pick off the library shelf; I was attracted by the odd title.

The woman in question, Endurance Proudfoot, is based on a real woman who became a bonesetter in Georgian England. Endurance is clumsy, strong and plain-spoken. Even thought her bonesetter father believes it’s not a job for a woman, she’s determined, and eventually makes her way to the career that she wants.

Needless to say, an independent woman isn’t given an easy time of it in the man’s world of 18th century London. Endurance needs every ounce of courage and strength she has. A real page-turner with some fantastic characters.

Daisy Johnson – Fen

I don’t know if you’ve read any Daisy Johnson, but she is hands-down the most watery writer I’ve come across.

I gradually realised, as I was partway through this collection of short stories set in the Fens, that I’d read another book of hers. ‘Everything Under’, which is set partly on a canal boat, has a similarly muddy, watery feel to it. My list of books read has a note in brackets after ‘Fen’ that says ‘eerie, bonkers’.

Many of the (human) characters in the stories seem to have something of the flooded fens in their nature. It’s as if they haven’t long emerged from the wetlands themselves. There are strains of myth and folklore that weave through the tales – an uncanny and mysterious gathering of stories.

Natasha Pulley – The Bedlam Stacks

I bloody love Natasha Pulley. I mean, my first introduction to her included a clockwork octopus in ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ – what’s not to like?

This book, also set in the late 1800s, is similarly wistful, quirky, full of adventure and with a host of fascinating inhabitants. The main character is recruited by the India Office to search out a source of quinine in Peru. In the process he discovers an almost-impossible village at the edge of the Amazon, a mysterious priest, and various characters who are woven around with myth and magical qualities.

Infused with love and melancholy, this is a perfect read to lose yourself in over a long, dark, midwinter weekend.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about this (pretty much uncurated, random) collection of books you might like to check out my 2022 favourite book list here, and my blog about how reading books can make your life better.

Staying connected to the world around you

How do we remind ourselves that we’re part of the interconnectedness of everything?

I’ve been ‘inviting people into my garden’ through Facebook for nearly four years, since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, when travel and activity was restricted. I was acutely aware that some people didn’t have their own gardens or even balconies, and I shared my green space to give people ‘virtual access’ to nature.

Lucy Hyde therapist sitting amongst some trees

It’s been valuable for me to connect to others by connecting to the natural world. At times, when life is busy, the gentle pressure to check what’s happening in the garden has reminded me to spend even a few moments noticing the changes and new arrivals. It’s encouraged me to bring my attention to the tiniest flowers, the weeds, the creatures that make their life in my garden.

Humans are part of the ecosystem

Something in me has evolved over the last few years, and I realise that I’ve changed the way I think of humans interacting with nature. The separation I used to see between ‘the human world’ and ‘the natural world’ feels more and more artificial, a symptom of the development of modern (industrial/post-industrial) society.

This synthetic distinction between humans and nature has encouraged humans to prioritise their own wants and needs without consideration for the impact on the world as a whole, and is a significant contributor towards the current climate and environmental tragedy.

Humans are part of the global ecosystem too. Looked at on a geological scale, humans were an extremely successful species for a long time at surviving and thriving. However, if we continue as we do we will suffer a huge population crash – possibly functional extinction. Nonetheless in a few millennia the planet will adjust and adapt to a new climatic system, and life (with or without humans) will continue. Taking this wide-angle view sometimes helps me accept that humans are just part of the natural cycle of life on the planet.

A one-world view

I joined a choir a few months ago, and one of the songs that I’ve learned is ‘Mni Wičoni (Water is Life), which was written by Sara Thomsen, inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all the tribes, nations, native and non-native people who came together to protect the land and water threatened by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (you can hear the song here ).

One of the Lakota phrases in the song is ‘Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ’. The closest translation, in English, is ‘all my relations’ – but ‘relations’ in the sense of other people, animals, insects, plants, rocks, mountains, rivers……..this one-world-view of ‘all my relations’ really resonated for me, and continues to touch me every time I sing the song. 

Disconnection as a defence

The disconnection that many of us maintain from the rest of the world encourages us to see bugs and beasties as ‘pests’, to vacuum up spiders (that would thrive, if we allowed them to, by eating the flies that annoy us). It prompts us to see nature as ‘inconvenient’ when moss grows on our plastic grass and concrete driveways. But it also enables us to ignore the pain and sorrow we experience if we really allow ourselves to notice how the numbers of swifts arriving each summer has plunged, how there aren’t as many ladybirds around from year to year, how seeing a hedgehog in our garden is a vanishing rarity.

Small reminders of the world around us can help us stay connected – connected to other people, connected to ‘all our relations’, connected to our own experience. Staying connected is essential if we want to make changes in ourselves and in our societies – together we are stronger and more resilient, and have a better chance of making life possible and tolerable for everyone, not just a privileged minority of humans. Finding ways to connect reduces the fear-based ‘us and them’ which prompts us to blame others for the wrongs in the world and stops us hearing that those people are afraid too.

Connecting in grief

finding your home Lucy Hyde online therapist

Staying connected to the world we inhabit inevitably involves grieving (e.g. in my case, when hundreds of thousands of scallops were washed up onto the shores near me by Storm Babet, to perish above the waterline). Grief, anger and sadness are appropriate, natural responses to tragedy, and by allowing ourselves to feel them we learn that we can tolerate them and carry on. Grief can bring people together.

Yet there can be a temptation to avoid strong or difficult feelings by numbing or distracting ourselves through forms that are harmful to us and the world (escaping on a flight, buying things without considering whether, honestly, we need them, over-eating or drinking). Most of us do this in some way, at some point – because staying with the discomfort can be really hard.

Many of us are expert at compartmentalising, which causes us to miss the relationships between things, for example, the influence of mind on body and vice versa. Just as we are healthier creatures if we allow our bodies and minds to be part of the same organism – enabling us to be more in tune with our needs – so we might be healthier creatures if we allow ourselves to be part of a community of humankind and of the world as a whole, bringing us in tune with the holistic, planetary need for health.

Noticing what’s around you

Paying attention to the seasonal changes and to older traditions of marking shifts through the year is a way I’ve found to be more in touch with what’s going on around me, and also to the impact of such changes on me – which includes allowing myself to feel affected by gloomy days, for example.

So, while I’ll be continuing to invite people into my garden, I’ll be thinking of this less as a retreat or withdrawal to nature, and more as an invitation to be present with what’s around you, wherever you are.  I’m not offering hope that ‘everything will be OK’, so much as an opportunity to be real and present, acknowledging what IS. Staying connected is a way of supporting each other in our collective grief.

Nature isn’t just ‘out there in the wilderness’. It’s in the daisy growing between the paving slabs. It’s in the spider in the corner of your ceiling. It’s in you.

If you’re experiencing anxiety, grief and distress in reaction to the impact of capitalism, greed and fear on the planet – no wonder; your response is normal and healthy.  But if your feelings are overwhelming and seem unbearable, please get in touch – I can help. 

Further reading:

Wild Therapy: Rewilding our inner and outer worlds by Nick Totton

Holding the Hope: Reviving psychological and spiritual agency in the face of climate change ed. Linda Aspey, Catherine Jackson, Diane Parker

Have I got SAD – or do I need to slow down?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder – and do you have it?

How do you feel when the days start getting shorter? Do you experience a building dread of dark mornings, where you struggle to drag yourself out of bed? Do you look forward to being able to coorie in under a blanket when it’s gloomy outside? Or perhaps it’s not the lack of light that you find difficult, but the weather – not being able to soak up the sun like a solar panel prompts anxiety that your battery is going to run low.

Seasonal Affective Disorder – what does it mean?

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a term used for feeling depressed, low in motivation and lacking in energy at certain times of the year. ‘Winter-pattern SAD’ is when people begin to experience symptoms in autumn and through winter, but some people also experience mood changes (anxiety, agitation) in spring and summer – ‘summer-pattern SAD’ – although this is less common.

The jury is still out on what exactly causes SAD – there are a number of factors indicated, including melatonin levels and vitamin D. People with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it. For some people, these changes in mood can be really debilitating, meaning that they experience severe symptoms of depression for almost half the year, so it can have a huge impact on their enjoyment of life.

Trees at the edge of water with mountains behind

Being human in the world

I’m absolutely not denying the reality of people’s experiences, or to suggest that you shouldn’t seek support for managing symptoms of depression, fatigue and social avoidance or anxiety. But for most of us, when we notice some changes in how we feel at different times of year, I wonder how helpful it really is to casually adopt a ‘disorder’ label.

I also wonder how much SAD is a product of a modern society that has evolved to a point where we need to ignore our bodies’ natural tendencies, in order to see ourselves as ‘operating productively’. The period where industrial and post-industrial society developed is the blink of an eye when compared to the timescale over which human animals evolve, and perhaps our bodies are struggling to catch up with the expectations of capitalism. Doing more than we have energy or capacity for (whatever the reason) ultimately leads to burnout and exhaustion – often manifesting as depression or anxiety.

The urge to see ourselves as somehow ‘other’ from the natural world has contributed to an inability to truly acknowledge the destructive impact humans have had on the world as a whole. Life as humans have come to live it in the 20th and 21st centuries has encouraged us to suppress our natural responses to the changes in the world around us – including regular, seasonal changes – to the extent that when we notice that we’re feeling differently, we try and make it ‘wrong’.

‘Disorder’ or natural response?

Following this line of thought, I wonder if there is a healthier, more compassionate approach to changes in mood and energy levels related to the shift into autumn and winter. Rather than asking ourselves ‘how can I feel more like I do in the summer?’ perhaps we can ask instead:

  • How can I be more understanding of my changes in mood or energy?
  • Where can I look for opportunities to live in the way that my whole self needs?
  • What do I need in order to take care of myself so that I can be ‘well enough’ in the world as it currently is?

Let’s explore these questions a little bit more.

rowing boat at the edge of sea with mountains behind

Bringing a compassionate understanding to our responses to seasonal change

The phrase ‘the natural world’ tends to be used to denote something separate from humans, and all human-created things. But human beings are animals, and it doesn’t serve us well to think that we don’t have the same basic needs as other mammals – eating, resting, mating, etc. We are still part of an ecosystem, although we collectively tend to try and distance ourselves from the rest of the world in an attempt to avoid the pain of acknowledging our destructive behaviours towards it.

In the Global North, until only a few hundred years ago, humans lived in a way that was much more responsive to the seasons. Our survival depended on us having a closer relationship with the land that fed us. Of necessity we needed to be much more active at certain times of year to produce, gather and store the food that would keep us going through the months of scarcity. While humans didn’t hibernate like some creatures (that are able to slow their body rates down in winter), the pace of life would have been slower over darker, winter months, where there was less to do on the land. Depending on food stores, there might be less food to provide energy for activity. I have a friend who works in a physical, seasonal job, who refers to the depths of winter as ‘plumping-up season’.

I also wonder how much we allow ourselves to live with the fluctuating energy levels that develop as part of the ageing process. Our bodies evolved to fulfil different roles at different life stages, and historically women wouldn’t expect to live for decades after our ability to procreate ceased. I’ve noticed that post-menopause, I tend to naturally want to be less active in the winter months. It’s difficult to know how much of this is connected to the changes in my body and energy levels, and how much is because I have learned to better tune into my body’s needs rather than overruling them.

Would you describe yourself with the words ‘I like to keep busy’? If so – have you ever thought about what that ‘liking’ is about? Many of us use busyness or activity as a coping mechanism – it distracts us and helps us avoid feelings. If we’re not being active we may start to feel anxious, and attach this anxiety to a ‘problem’ that we can then get busy trying to fix. If this rings true for you, then any natural slowing-down tendencies you may experience during winter months might feel a bit scary, because allowing yourself more space brings the potential for anxiety.

carved stone face in front of hills

Living in the way that our bodies need

I’m fortunate to have moved myself to a career that allows me some freedom to dictate my working pattern through self-employment. In recent years I’ve come to realise that I have less energy towards the end of the year. I need to bear in mind, when planning ahead, that setting myself goals for the last quarter is unhelpful – I don’t achieve them and I end up feeling I’ve failed or ‘not tried hard enough’. I can structure my appointments so that most days I can squeeze in a quick dip in the sea, which particularly works for me in the winter as it gives me an intense burst of ‘outsideness’ when I may not feel motivated to go for a long walk.

Not everyone can dictate their working pattern or life to this extent; even if you recognise that your body would prefer you to have a different structure to your day, this may not be possible due to the requirements of your job or employer. However, most people have at least some autonomy to tweak aspects of day to day life – if they can allow themselves to recognise the value of prioritising their needs.

Ask yourself whether you really want to be more active or energetic in winter. Is that about your needs, or does it have the words ‘I should’ attached to it? Is it influenced by what you imagine others think or do; have you been affected by what you perceive as societal norms, or the ‘living my best life’ impact of social media? Most of us are influenced by these factors to some extent, even if we like to tell ourselves ‘I don’t care what others think’.

Modern society as lived in many countries is focused on productivity to a degree that is unhealthy for the planet and for us, creating a myth that economic growth is desirable and feeding fears of scarcity. It benefits the world when we do less, as well as allowing us to recover – and to save money. If you feel the urge to shop to ‘cheer yourself up’, try pausing for a moment and checking in with your inner self what need you might be trying to meet. How you might turn towards that part of you with kindness rather than trying to distract yourself from it by looking for external stimulation.

Wind-blown pine tree at the edge of sea

Taking care of ourselves ‘well enough’

We’re living, breathing creatures and how we feel changes depending on what’s going on around us, and the events and stresses that we’re subject to in our lives. That includes weather, daylight hours, temperature. Telling ourselves that we can carry on operating at the same capacity whatever happens around us, and to us, is a denial of reality and longer term isn’t good for us.

However, in order to carrying on living in society it’s necessary to accept that the modern world isn’t currently responsive to the needs of most of the world’s inhabitants (of all species). My ‘perfect world’ might not be the one I currently live in, and it’s important to recognise that, and allow myself to feel the grief of it, but I also have to find a balance that is ‘good enough’ for me to keep living in the world as it is.

I think of this as a little bit like the experience of being autistic in a world where the neurotypical experience is privileged. Autistic people shouldn’t have to do all the work to adapt to a society that often doesn’t work for them, but until society itself evolves to be more accessible and accepting to all, the choice for autistic people can sometimes be (unfairly) adapt or withdraw.

Swimmers in a grey sea below a rainbow

What might help develop self-compassion?

I use a Focusing practice to regularly check in to what I need. Although having a routine helps me, it can sometimes mean that I shut myself off from noticing when I need to slow down. I (try to) accept that I might not always know what I need, and that this will change from day to day – and perhaps more importantly, I give myself a break if I realise I’ve overdone it or made the ‘wrong’ choice. Learning to listen to what your whole self needs – rather than to the internal parent or inner critic that’s very good at telling you what you ‘should’ be doing – can be truly healing.

Treatments that are recommended for SAD are worth considering, but pay attention to what feels right for you, rather than trying to convince your body that it’s not really winter. For example, generally I’m an early riser and structure my work to suit this. For a few months of the year, though, my body would really like to wake later but it’s not practical for me to chop and change appointments. I use an alarm-clock-light that gets gradually brighter to simulate sunrise, which helps, but I also accept that I feel more sluggish in these few months of dark mornings, so I have lower expectations of what I’ll achieve.

But what if SAD really fits my experience?

If you experience severe depression as a result of changing seasons, you’ll probably find it helpful to investigate this with the help of a counsellor or psychotherapist. People severely affected by SAD are more likely to have depression, bipolar or SAD in their family history. This is as likely to indicate inherited emotional dysregulation (patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour are often passed down through families) as a ‘genetic tendency’. There’s a good chance that, with the support of an empathic other, you can make changes that will help you feel better (and perhaps interrupt the generational cycle too).

While it’s increasingly accepted that there’s no evidence for the ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ theory of depression, antidepressants can still be helpful for dialling down strong emotions to a point where you can begin to tackle the issues underlying them. There are other self-help suggestions for SAD here .

I don’t believe it’s helpful to assume that changing moods or energy levels are a ‘disorder’. Arguably it could be disordered thinking to believe that we should continue to function in the same way all year round, unless we live in a part of the world that doesn’t have significant seasonal changes.

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if were not balanced by sadness.

Carl Jung

If you find it difficult to tune into what your body is telling you that you need, or if you find it scary or uncomfortable to sit with strong emotions, you may find it helpful to learn Inner Relationship Focusing, which is a self-help practice that supports development of a compassionate attitude towards parts of yourself that you usually ignore. Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more about it, or watch the video on this page.

cloud in valley below mountain and blue sky

Further resources