“In Sweden”, she says, “they add Vitamin D to their drinking water to make sure people feel good over the Winter.” It was easy to overhear that conversation; the weather is all people talk about these days. I am not sure that information is even true but it speaks for itself: January is upon us and everyone in this city is clinging to utopian stories about Scandinavia where – as usual – they supposedly have it all figured out.
We have already passed the longest night of the year, so the glass should be half-full – but the days have been muddy and colorless lately, steeping everyone in an all-encompassing melancholia.
When I came to the office this week, three people individually complained to me about the greyness that has been enveloping this city lately. It is gnawing on everyone’s spirit, and sometimes it grasps me as I walk the streets of Berlin, when I suddenly feel a wave of a bad mood coming over me. I can usually shake it off whenever I realize it is there: I look up at the desaturated city surrounding me, its wet streets and bare trees, and I remember that this mood comes from my surrounding, that it has nothing to do with how I actually feel – but with this lack of daylight. The Berlin Blues is a real thing – but thankfully, this city also offers plenty of distractions: I love the foggy bar windows that I pass at night, through which the light barely manages to shine. I love the hot air coming from the gutters that line the streets, the smell of subway tunnels emanating from them whenever a train passes. Not succumbing to the blues, I am convinced, is a matter of mindfulness: It takes a concerted effort to be stronger than the sky that weights down on you, it takes a focused gaze on things that are beautiful at this time of the year (and at the light at the end of the tunnel, at that).
Who knows, perhaps it is all about vitamin D. Our bodies are, after all, a wasteland of chemicals, hormones and god knows what kind of processes that make our brains tick the way they do. But perhaps the melancholy that comes with this time of year is like the tide going out – you have to remind yourself that it will eventually come back in. In the meantime, read some books, drink some tea, enjoy the silence and think. And remember that you can as well not let it bring you down.