Winter depression: 10 simple tips to get out of a bad mood

mit einfachen tipps aus dem stimmungstief

Is winter knocking, is your mood sinking like Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic? You don’t want to go out, have a constant appetite and could sleep like Sleeping Beauty? Then you are suffering from winter depression. Here you can read about what a winter depression is, what it causes and how to escape the depressed mood

What is a winter depression?

Every year it hits you with the same blow. The autumn wind tears the first leaves from the trees, and you want to snuggle up in warm blankets, stay in bed and send your boss to hell. You suffer from winter depression – a seasonal disorder of your emotions (SAD: seasonal affective disorder or seasonal dependent depression):

When autumn begins, you fall into a deep hole and only spring brings a smile back. Such seasonal depression are rare; it is estimated that they depress up to three percent of Europeans. It is mostly women who are affected: they complain about it three times more often than men.

But admittedly: Except for the children, no one loves winter. Everyone is limp, listless and wants to hibernate as if they were a brown bear in the Finnish woodlands. So is it correct to say that you are just disgruntled because of this or are you really depressed? Find out the answer now:

What are the symptoms of winter depression?

Maybe you’re just suffering from the winter blues? No, this is not an African American folklore that is only played in winter. Winter blues is the weak type of winter depression. You are tired and listless – you are not depressed. But how do you tell the two forms apart? You can tell the difference mainly by how much the following symptoms dampen your mood:

  • You are persistent and noticeably tired – maybe even prone to sleep addiction? Besides, you could only be roused in the morning with a continuous buzzing alarm.
  • Cravings: The candy closet is looted like the safe in a bank robbery. You need to eat and eat – especially carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Irritability: Your react irritated and annoyed, suffer from constant moodiness and avoid social contacts like vampires do garlic.
  • Lack of energy: You can’t get up the energy to do anything – you would prefer to melt into the couch and never get up again.
  • Listlessness: Nothing drives them, nothing motivates them. Goals that you wanted to achieve weeks ago leave you cold as an ice bath.

It is above all fatigue and cravings that distinguish winter depression from normal depression – in normal depression, sufferers hardly sleep and eat almost nothing. But how do you differentiate between winter blues and winter depression?

Only a doctor can make an accurate diagnosis. During the diagnosis, he examines your blood and uses an ultrasound scan. But you can also recognise winter depression by certain signs and support your specialist in the diagnosis: Do you feel the same symptoms every winter? And as if by magic, they disappear after about 90 days?

Maybe in summer you feel just the opposite – you are euphoric, exuberant, almost childish? Then a winter depression is likely. In the same way, if you are especially tired and eat a lot. Almost everyone is exhausted in winter and puts on a few pounds, but only a sick person could sleep and eat all day.

At the intensity distinguish the winter depression from the winter blues. But where does that come from? What is the trigger?

uncreative on the couch

What are the causes?

1. Less light

Our brain works on a simple principle: Action reaction. When it’s cold, we freeze – when it’s hot, the sweat drifts in cold beads onto our foreheads. This system works perfectly, but unfortunately it gets out of hand in winter. Usually your body sheds Melatonin off as soon as it gets dark . This is a sleep hormone and makes you tired.

Now autumn is cloudy, the winter months are dark and the sun is missing. That is why the pineal gland pours also during the day Melatonin off; if you suffer from winter depression, this effect is particularly bad. Because your photoreceptor cells less light-sensitive your brain produces melatonin like Apple iPhones.

As a result, you also suffer from a high need for sleep during the day and could fall asleep immediately – Your melatonin level is particularly high and your wake-sleep rhythm is abnormal. This effect of light can also be observed geographically: Winter depression is rare in the sunny south and common in cloudy Scandinavia.

2. Vitamin D deficiency

In advertising will vitamin C praised as if it were the philosopher’s stone. It supports your immune system against bacteria and viruses and protects you from diseases. In fact, vitamin D is what vitamin C is praised for.

Vitamin D strengthens the immune system, strengthens the muscles and protects the nerve cells in the brain. It is also crucial for the psyche that neurotransmitters such as serotonin or dopamine (“happiness hormones”) are properly regulated.

The only problem: 80 to 90 percent of vitamin D is produced by the body itself, as long as the sun shines and the rays hit the skin. In the dark seasons, sunshine is as rare as toilet paper in Corona March – and that depresses the mood.

The result: winter depression comes back to haunt you. This was the conclusion of a review study that compared relevant studies on depressed mood and vitamin D from 2000 to 2017.

sun in winter

3. Melatonin inhibits serotonin

Serotonin is the ultimate happiness hormone – it makes you balanced, satisfied and focused. Unfortunately, your body taps into this serotonin, to make melatonin from it. The serotonin level drops and so does your mood.

That’s why you’re so ravenous: your body draws substances from sugar and chocolate to make new serotonin. They fill up the stomach and fill their serotonin stores – that’s where hunger comes from. Now you know the causes, but you are not rid of the winter depression yet – you can achieve this goal now.

What helps against winter depression? – 10 tips on how to prevent a depressed mood

  1. Exercise regularly: In the study “Is Exercise a Viable Treatment for Depression?” researchers discovered that exercise effectively alleviates depression. Training sessions with high intensity performed best. Be recommended three to five times a week .
  2. Go for long walks in the fresh air : I know it’s cold outside, the streets are slippery and the sky is more cloudy than a migraine patient’s room. Nevertheless, daylight is a brighter source of light than energy-saving lamps – your body therefore produces more Vitamin D and less melatonin .
  3. Eat products with vitamin D: for example, fatty fish (herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines), liver and egg yolk. In addition, you can take MCT oil – it contains vitamin D and K2 (good for bones).
  4. Driving towards the sun: Admittedly, only very few people succeed in doing this. But if you go on a winter holiday, do as the migratory birds do: travel after the sun.
  5. Take St. John’s wort: St. John’s wort relieves mild and moderate depression. It also makes you more sensitive to light – your eye can take in more light. That overcomes the winter depression.
  6. Shower light in the morning hours: With a light therapy lamp, you can shower in the light in the morning. You sit in front of a lamp for 30 minutes, which irradiates you with a light intensity of 10,000 lux. The result: your biological clock is set right again, the melatonin balance normalizes and the lack of light is overcome.
  7. Meet your friends: With a winter depression, you want to be alone like a hermit in the desert. Nevertheless, don’t lull yourself into loneliness – see your friends, go out and do something. It brightens up like the sea after a storm.
  8. Let go of stress: We are less fit in winter. Point. That’s why you should deflate, switch off and relax and not be smothered in work. Save yourself big plans for spring.
  9. Laugh more and think positively: sounds banal and a bit like Far Eastern hippie healing. Yet laughter releases endorphins – So happiness hormones. And our focus determines our well-being: Do you see everything badly in life, you feel bad . What if you focus on the positives?
  10. Avoid sugar and sweets: Chocolate makes happy? For now, the more sugar you consume, the higher the risk of depression – and vice versa. This was the result of the study Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study . Take recourse to a healthy diet when suffering from mental illness.

But if no tip works? And hit the funds in the void like in shadow boxing? Then what can you do? Then they should see a doctor and get professional help:

woman walks in winter

Professional treatment of winter depression

Contact a doctor, he will give you three measures prescribe:

  1. Light therapy (as mentioned above)
  2. Antidepressants
  3. psychotherapy

Don’t worry: you are not crazy. Antidepressants and psychotherapy sound worse than they are. Let’s go through the two together and take away your fear:


How should medication help you when the dark winter hits your mood? This question is sure to be floating in your head, but the answer is clear. As shown above, you are depressed because your serotonin levels are as low as the sun in November. An antidepressant is supposed to correct that, especially that Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

How do the ingredients work?

They block the serotonin transport proteins in the central nervous system and prevent messenger substances such as serotonin from being reabsorbed into the synaptic gap, to put it simply: SSRIs prevent the released serotonin from being transported back and thus increase its effectiveness.

So you don’t take any stimulants, no drugs and you don’t get high. The antidepressant only alleviates the discomfort of winter depression – you are more motivated, cheerful again and greet the day with a smile instead of the pillow over your head.


In addition to the medication, your doctor may prescribe therapy – specifically one cognitive behavioral therapy , but what does that mean? Cognitive behavioral theory suggests that thoughts and feelings directly influence our behavior. If you feel lost in large numbers, you will hardly make social contacts and weld together into a new circle of friends.

You stand there alone, shy and inactive – you just want to get away. Cognitive behavioural theory eliminates these negative feelings and thoughts so that you behave differently and change your life positively.

But how does that help with winter depression?

You are sure to say to yourself: “I can’t go on anymore, everything is bad, I’m in a hole!” That’s why they don’t do anything, don’t go out and close themselves off to friends and work. Behavioural therapy now closes this hole by filling it up with positive feelings and thoughts.

Think better, live better again. As a result, your winter depression subsides and you get through the cloudy winter happily. Did the tips help defeat your winter depression? Do you write it in the comments and do you help other readers with your experience?

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