Sun in your heart – even when it's grey outside

Sun in your heart – even when it's grey outside

In comics, unhappy people are often drawn with a cloud above their head: A lack of light depresses your mood. That's why many people feel less happy in winter. After all, it's dark for up to 16 hours, and even during the day it often never really gets light. But why do daylight and the weather have such a big influence on how we feel? There are various explanations for this – with countermeasures to match.

Explanation 1: It's those hormones again

It's not difficult to find the culprits on a biochemical level: hormones. When there isn't much light around, the sleep hormone melatonin is produced in greater quantities. It makes us lethargic and tired. By contrast, the happiness hormone serotonin creates a good mood and suppresses the appetite. It is found in lower levels during the dark winter months. That's why we tend to be more despondent and have a particular craving for chocolate during winter. 

Solution 1 A: Let there be light!
If you want to have a positive influence on your hormone levels, you should make sure you get enough light. There are various options for this: special light therapy lamps, coffee on the balcony or a walk during your lunch break. Even when the sky is cloudy, it is always lighter outside than it is inside. And if you want to flee those oppressive stratus clouds, you should jump on a train and treat yourself to a sunny day in the mountains. 

Solution 1 B: Watch your diet

Diet plays a big role if you want to remain slim and healthy in winter too. Satisfy your craving for something sweet with fruit rather than a monster packet of candy. Treat yourself to three portions of vegetables and two of fruit each day – "five a day". One portion corresponds to a handful. Combine them as you wish and with as much variety as possible, as every type of fruit and vegetable has different things that do our body good.

Explanation 2: Lazy bones are unhappy

Swimming, tennis, hiking: there are many sports that are especially fun in the summer. But when it's raining outside or the north wind chills you to the bone, it's tempting to creep beside the fire. But heavy eating and a lack of exercise make you tired and lacking in motivation. Moreover, gaining two or three kilos this way doesn't make you feel any better. You may suffer from headache or backache too: a real vicious circle.

Solution 2: Keep moving!
Everyone knows that regular exercise is extremely important for health, gets the circulation going and makes us perform better. Less known is the fact that sport also lifts your spirits. It doesn't always have to be jogging; a Zumba class, ice skating or a lap of the Zurich Vita circuit also improves your mood considerably. Small but realistic steps are better than elaborate plans for high achievement: for instance, get out one station earlier on your way to work or fetch your wholemeal bread by bike on a Sunday.

Explanation 3: The primeval man in us all

For hundreds of thousands of years humans were hunter-gatherers. Then for around 10,000 years they were almost exclusively farmers. This genetic inheritance still affects us all. Thousands of generations before us have followed the rhythm of nature and the seasons, rising and going to sleep with the sun. When it was warm, they were active and lively. But winter was always the time to be together, tell stories by the fire and remember the past. 

Solution 3: Accept your heritage
In winter, ensure a balanced relationship between demands and relaxation and get enough sleep at times that are as constant as possible. Do not, however, retreat into your bear cave too much; instead, organize some cozy time with friends and colleagues over a games evening, a film or brunch. It might also be the right time to keep a diary, design a photo book or finally visit the museum. It is important to organize miniature highlights in your everyday life to ensure that a depressed mood doesn't become a permanent state. With a weekly agenda you will create structure in your day-to-day existence and make sure that sport and social contact become more than just good intentions.

When a bad mood becomes depression

Pay attention to yourself: Are you no longer able to look forward to anything and does everything seem irrelevant? Do you not only feel worn-out but lack any energy? Do sport, relaxation and sleep fail to help? Take these signs seriously: The boundary between winter blues and a depressive illness is fluid. Don't hesitate to seek professional support. Your family physician is a good initial contact. After all, depression is not fate and is also nothing to be ashamed of. You can fight it actively and successfully.

Legal disclaimer:

This article deals with a health topic and should be viewed as general health information. It does not serve self-diagnosis and does not replace the professional judgment of a doctor. If you experience any health problems, please consult a doctor or seek advice from a pharmacy.

Typical symptoms of the winter blues

  • Lack of energy and drive 
  • Changeable moods 
  • Despondent mood
  • Social withdrawal
  • Tiredness – despite regular sleep 
  • Voracious appetite

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