Photo: emoro/

Culture Shock: Berlin Winter Blues

Autumn leaves have already started to fall down, days are getting colder and gloomier, and you want to sit at your warm and cozy home to read a book, or just lie in bed with your pyjamas on. Don’t worry, it’s just the normal Berlin winter blues


by Duygu Bräuer

Autumn is praised and enthusiastically anticipated when you think about of many likes on social media you get by posting pictures of falling yellowish leaves from a tree or a street covered by autumn leaves. But people living in the north often have mixed feelings about the cold season. It is the time again to feel tired, sad, depressed, unwilling, bored, and unsexy, the time when your energy level comes to a low and you rather focus on problems. It is the time again that the sunlight cannot be seen through grey sky for days or even weeks. It is the time again that it is cold, grey, dark and wet outside, which gives you a chill. It is the time again to have a strong appetite for sweet and fatty foods, and to have an unwillingness against everything that should be done for university, for the job or for other obligations. You feel urge to do nothing except staying at home, sleeping, having a cup of warm tea or coffee while reading a book or watching a series. All of these are the symptoms of the winter blues in Berlin, or “seasonal affective disorder (SAD)”, as doctors call it.

The lack of sunlight is the main reason for SAD. Recent studies have proved that a shortage in bright light has a significant impact on the brain’s function. Berlin has as few as 45 hours of sunlight averagely in January. In other words, only two days of sunlight in a whole month! Lack of light leads to a higher production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin controls the day-night rhythm in the body. For melatonin production the body converts serotonin that affects our mood. This process decreases the body’s supply which causes depressive symptoms affecting our daily lives and the quality of our lives in winter strongly. Longer nights mean more melatonin and studies suggests that the more time we spend awake during the melatonin phase causes the more risk of depression. According to some studies, one in four Germans suffers from SAD during winter. Young women are highly prone to SAD; the disorder strikes women four times more often than men and hits young people hardest.

During winter, it has been really overwhelming and challenging for me to focus on my daily routines, since I first moved to Berlin. Winter really means depression, darkness and gloom, since I come from a country where it is cold in Winter but also sunny. Therefore, I have developed some ways to cure my winter blues. To minimise it, I try to enjoy every opportunity to get more sunlight, for example going for a walk in a park. I am fighting against my urge to “stay at home and do nothing” by doing some sports and going to a warm and cozy café. I regularly take vitamin D support. Before Christmas, I enjoy the Christmas markets in Berlin which offer me joy and a glass of hot “Glühwein” (mulled wine). For me, winter means not just depression but also having enough time to visit the galleries and museums that are always warmer and more colourful than the outside world. When it gets colder, visiting a sauna and enjoying the hot atmosphere is good for both my mental and physical health. I avoid watching sad movies or dramas and reading depressing books. And I constantly listen to one of the most upbeat songs by SEEED to lift up my mood: “Dickes B, oben an der Spree. Im Sommer tust du gut und im Winter tut's weh" ("Phat B, up on the river. In summer you're great and in winter, it's painful").


There’s no need to stay alone with you winter blues. Come to the Dark Night ­– The Gala of the November Depression on 28 November. Our psychologists will present some helpful information on the phenomenon of the winter depression and you can take part in a variety of activities to lighten up your mood, such as yoga, friendship speed dating, DIY crafts, a writing workshop and many more…

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