Currently, the sun rarely shines. That affects the mood. Chronobiologist Till Roenneberg gives tips on dealing with winter melancholy.
For days barely a direct ray of sunshine reaches Munich ground. It is cold, it is foggy, it is cloudy. What does that do to the people who do not get sun? Till Roenneberg, 65, a chronobiologist and professor at the Institute of Medical Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians University, has answers.
SZ: Mr. Roenneberg, what happens to one when you do not see the sun for days?
Till Roenneberg: First of all, in recent days we have had no light problem in Munich. We had white high fog, but during the day everybody got a light. There are problems when permanent dark rain clouds hang in the sky, when it gets dark early and late bright and especially if the whole day is inside. Basically, it's like this: The more light we get, the more active we are.
At the moment, it is much less, at least it feels that way.
But it is quite normal that humans get less light in winter. When someone spends all day inside, the amount of light is reduced by one hundred to one thousand times that of one who stays outdoors.
Thousands of times?
On a sunny day, I get up to 150,000 lux of light outside, but still about 10,000 on a rainy day, but inside it's only 100 to 400 in the line of sight, if I'm not sitting right at the window and looking out.
So: What does one do with one?
Light makes a lot of people. It represents, for example, the internal clock. It also affects inner transmitter systems that activate, wake us up and make us happier. But because we get less and less light today, compared to those who work outside, our internal clocks are so late, we need an alarm in the morning. But the light is ultimately only one factor of several.
Which one is there?
The length of the day and the temperature, for example, and that you are barely outside. The colder it is, the less you like to go out the door. And then you have to dress so much, which makes you feel less free to move. These are all small psychological factors, but they all add up.
In what way?
If we see the sun, the blue sky, then we have the feeling that there is more light, although that is not necessarily so. And with a blue sky, you also know: Ah, well, I will not get wet. And basically it's about something else: In the summer it is too hot for the people, too cold in the winter and they can not see the sun. In my opinion, this dissatisfaction usually has nothing to do with the real circumstances, but the human being, especially when he lives in a big city, does not feel really well and seeks a reason for it.
Why does not he feel well?
I've been using questionnaires for decades, interviewing hundreds of thousands of people, and my experience is that this malaise is a general phenomenon. In the meantime, things are going too fast for people, in the cities everything has become so dense and the majority is also still dissatisfied with their job, because they should only work, but not be allowed to shape anything.
So what do you advise the longing for a blue sky waiting Munich, who is currently unhappy sitting in his office?
He just has to accept that it's like this in winter: we get less light. Point. The more we celebrate and accept the melancholy of winter and indulge in it, the more rested we are after the dark season and the more beautiful and intense we experience spring.
Very simple: go out! I've had a farm for a couple of years, and I go out in all weathers, in rubber boots, when it rains. Go out and celebrate the winter melancholy with lots of reading, more sleep and more conversations with other people.