The days are still short and the sun only appears sometimes. Sooner or later this affects the mood of many people, because light and mood are closely connected. A few simple tricks to get out of a low mood quickly. The magic word is Lux.
How important the light is for our life and good mood, we feel every winter anew. "Every third woman and every fourth man knows this temporary low mood in winter," explains Professor Emeritus Wolfgang Schneider, former director of the Clinic for Psychosomatics and Psychotherapeutic Medicine at Rostock University Medical Center.
Melatonin makes us sleepy
There is a simple reason for this: when we are outdoors, light hits the receptors of our eye retina. This activates the formation of hormones in our brain. When there is a lack of daylight, the body produces more of the hormone melatonin. It makes you tired and paralyzes your drive. It suggests to our body, "It’s nighttime.".
This is also called the "hibernation reflex." Additionally lacks the neurotransmitter serotonin. Low levels of this neurotransmitter also have a negative effect on mood. In addition, concentration decreases and we get tired.
Lux determines mood
"Lux" is the internationally valid unit for illuminance. "Lux" is Latin and simply means "light". Light on a bright sunny day has 100.000 lux, 3000 to 5000 lux on a dark winter’s day, and around 400 to 500 lux on a normal indoor lighting day. And because no one looks directly into the lamp, because that is unpleasant, only 100 lux reach the retina.
So even on a gray winter day, we get much more lux outside than in a building. Even a walk helps against bad moods. Looking at the sky even intensifies this effect. It is best to do this without sunglasses, because they act as a light filter and thus also as a lux filter. But this is only true if the sky is cloudy. Looking directly into the sun can damage the eyes. Biking or walking to work and taking breaks outdoors as often as possible also gives us a rich dose of lux.
Influence of light indoors
Most people spend their days indoors, such as at their desk. Over the past four million years, however, people have become accustomed to becoming active only in daylight – i.e., at around 5000 to 100.000 lux.
Indoor illuminance does not reach this threshold by far. But it helps to have your desk by the window.
If this is not possible: the light receptors in our eyes react primarily to the wavelengths of blue light. Lamps with a high blue component, such as daylight lamps, are therefore a good solution.
Cold white energy-saving lamps are also effective.
Normal light bulbs emit neutral white light, i.e. have a comparatively low blue component. We also need green and red light, but blue light should predominate – at least if you want to stay awake. For the evening hours, it can be warm light with a high red component. This signals to our body that it is getting evening and makes us tired.
If the mood still remains gloomy
Sometimes, however, neither light nor exercise helps to get the low mood back on track. "If depressed mood and listlessness persist for more than two weeks and the person affected suffers considerably, a doctor should be consulted," recommends Schneider.
It could be that a "seasonal depressive disorder" (seasonal affective disorder) is the reason for the low mood. And how to treat it? With "light therapy.
Dose and duration vary
During light therapy, the patient sits in front of a special light device every morning and evening for a few weeks and treats himself to an extensive light shower. This is how short autumn and winter days can be artificially extended. Dose and duration vary from patient to patient.
In principle, half an hour at an illuminance of 10 lux has proved to be a good time to be active.000 lux or two hours at 2500 lux proved to be particularly effective. By comparison, a bright sunny day measures up to 100.000 lux.
But natural daylight still has the best effect. People without winter depression should also keep this in mind. Even an overcast sky is much brighter than any artificial light source. That’s why we should venture outdoors as often as possible during the dull months and allow our bodies as much natural daylight as we can manage.
Jacket on and out!
And it still has a positive effect when we go outside. We allow our body light, additionally stress is reduced by activity and movement. On top of that, the body produces happiness hormones called endorphins. Sports such as jogging or walking are particularly recommended. But there is a slower way: a 30-minute walk every day, preferably around midday, can work wonders, even if the sky is overcast.