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How to beat back the Swedish winter blues

Alec Forss · 20 Dec 2011, 11:37

Published: 20 Dec 2011 11:37 GMT+01:00

The trees have been stripped bare of their leaves, it's cold, and the clocks have gone back.

And it’s dark. Very dark.

It's at this time of year that some of us begin to wonder, with some justification, why on earth we live in Sweden.

Living in northern latitudes means that, by mid-December, there is approximately two hours' less light in Stockholm compared to, say, London or Brussels.

But if you think the light situation in the capital or the south of Sweden is bad, spare a thought for the very far north of the country where, above the Arctic Circle, residents may not see the sun for two months.

The winter gloom can be hard to deal with – for Swedes and foreigners alike.

Click here to have a look at a few ways to help keep the mid-winter blues at bay.

Experts calculate that up to one in five of the Swedish population suffers – in varying degrees – from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), linked to the absence of sufficient sunlight.

The symptoms include depression, listlessness and general inertia – a feeling of being considerably more tired – and grumpy – than usual.

Other indicators may include a diminished sex drive and disturbed appetite.

And while incurable optimists genetically predisposed to year-round cheerfulness might laugh at us “SAD-dies”, it is recognized as a genuine medical condition, which may also be further aggravated by stress and can be hereditary.

But don't despair, there are steps we can take to help us cope with so-called vinterdepression.

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Alec Forss (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

12:46 December 20, 2011 by Eagle63
It's actually very simple; every winter we travel to Florida for some time; great weather usually in Dec, Jan & Feb.

Looking forward to that warm and sunny break from the cold dark winter makes it all bearable...
13:35 December 20, 2011 by Rishonim
Where are those tips from Alec?? I could you them right about now..
13:54 December 20, 2011 by spo10
The "SAD-dies" would be even more sad and depressed with this term. :D
18:15 December 20, 2011 by rybo1
Well, one of the suggestions to alleviate the winter doldrums, was to escape to Thailand or some wonderfully, sunny and warm place. A good idea for those with the means to do so. But, I don't think it would go well with those who don't have the means to do so or the homeless. Bottom line: a very poor suggestion. Me, I'm staying here and shoveling the F"#¤&/g driveway!
19:20 December 20, 2011 by Steggles
It's too early for me to comment but I am really enjoying this my first ever snow & first winter in Sweden.

Beats days of extreme heat back home down under in Adelaide like the forecast for 36c on this coming christmas day! Not nice at all.
23:08 December 20, 2011 by wxman
Observation: to beat back the Swedish winter blues, the feet are clearly in the wrong position to achieve this state.
00:07 December 21, 2011 by matona1
we export sun from africa they are tired of the sun there
16:28 December 23, 2011 by tadchem
Sunlight. To be precise, Ultraviolet-A (400 nm-315 nm) stimulates synthesis of Vitamin-D in the skin and, more importantly, melatonin in the retina (directly connected to the brain via the optic nerve). The melatonin keeps the circadian rhythyms synchronized and mitigates SAD.

During the winter you should try to see daylight *without* sunglasses as much as possible.
17:47 December 25, 2011 by Dan in Halmstad
This is my first winter in Sweden and I am doing great. In fact, I am adapting better than my Swedish wife. Of course, way down south the days are still nearly 7 hours long but until I started taking Vitamin D, at least 5000 units a day, I was starting to feel it even way back in September. In addition to everything else suggested, get your vitamin D levels tested and get on a program to raise them or maintain them. Vitamin D apparently affects thousands of genes and lack of it probably plays a big part in winter doldrums.
16:50 January 3, 2012 by itsspideyman
I spent a wonderful Christmas in Sweden with my fiance and her family. Got there on December 24th, watch Disney in the afternoon, opened presents, and attended services on Christmas Day (in Polish no less!). I come from Louisiana and was fascinated to see the sun never get above the 2 O'Clock position in the sky.

I found you have a great ability to cope, surrounded by friends, strong coffee (from Louisiana I love it), and stronger spirits (see Louisiana)! I am now back home where it's 23 degrees Celcius, with the sun high in the sky, remembering my marvelous days in Sweden.
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