In the dark month of November, we decided as a team to take a closer look at the subject of #winterblues. After all, we all feel it: The days are getting shorter, it’s getting darker, and the mood in the office is going down.
Often, we feel like just crawling under the duvet and never coming out again. You feel as if you have less energy and everything seems gloomier.
But why does this happen? And what is nature actually trying to tell us? Or are we all just suffering from seasonal depression?
These are the questions that we’ve been asking ourselves over the past few weeks, which is why in this first article, we’re writing about what the transition into the dark season is all about. In the second article we will then examine the body and mind in more detail and the effects that autumn and winter have on them. In the third article, we will give you specific tips for everyday life on how to get through the dark season and enter the new year feeling stronger.
We’re sure that after reading this article the days won’t seem so dreary and you’ll be able to recognise the beauty in them as well!
What the gods of Greek mythology have to do with autumn
To understand mankind, nature, and the interaction between them, it often helps to look into Greek mythology.
According to the story, Hades, the god of the underworld, needed a new wife. Naturally, it couldn’t be just any woman; it had to be a beautiful goddess from a good background, so he fell in love with the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, who was then known as “Kore”.
As charm was not one of Hades’ strengths, and he was much better at getting what he wanted by force, he simply abducted Kore to the underworld.
For people on earth this was of course a catastrophe, as Kore, being the goddess of fertility, was responsible for the blossoming of nature. This resulted in a drought on earth and nothing grew anymore – people starved.
As any good father would do, Zeus tried to save his daughter and managed to do so with a compromise. The compromise was as follows:
For the first three months of the year Kore would rule the underworld together with Hades using the name Persephone. For the rest of the year, she would be allowed to be with her mother on earth so that nature could flourish.
This story is so much more than just a myth. It explains the autumn and winter principle of metamorphosis and rebirth, which symbolises the descent into darkness before the ascent into light.
You can observe this in nature in every seed that makes its way through the dark earth to stretch its head toward the light in spring.
Nature in its annual metamorphosis: when animals and plants also rest and relax
Once you’ve internalised this principle, you’ll see it everywhere around you in the outside world. Autumn and the transition to winter is probably most noticeable in the trees.
The days become shorter, temperatures drop, and there is less light available. Less light also means that trees and plants reduce their photosynthesis process – the process in which carbon dioxide obtained from the air and water is changed into glucose and oxygen.
This is done in particular by chlorophyll, the green pigment in the leaves. The less light there is available, the faster the leaves change their colour and fall off. A birch tree can lose up to 28 kilograms in foliage per year, while a horse chestnut tree produces up to 25 kilograms of foliage on average.
The trees just let go of the old, rest in winter, and gather strength for a new beginning in spring.
Many animals emulate this. For example, hedgehogs and some other rodents go into hibernation, a state in which the body temperature is slightly lower, and functions are thus reduced to a minimum.
Squirrels hibernate for only a small part of winter but are generally less active. They don’t run around so energetically and instead stock up on food which they hide.
Fish also have tactics for surviving the winter. As soon as it becomes colder outside, their temperature drops and their blood cools down. They, too, become less active and look for places to hide. If their body temperature drops below a certain level, they fall into a cold-induced paralysis from which they only wake up in spring.
The scorpion archetype symbolises change and new beginnings in us
As I’m sure you know, the sun moves into the zodiac sign of Scorpio from October 24th – that’s why people whose birthday falls within the following month are called Scorpios, referring to their zodiac sign.
We can read a lot into this as well, after all, astrology puts astronomical constellations and processes on earth in relation to each other. They do this according to the principle “In matters large and small – as above, so below”.
So, what does the archetype of the scorpion tell us in autumn about the processes on earth and thus also in ourselves?
This archetype symbolically represents change, transformation, and rebirth.
Like Persephone in the underworld, we should use this phase to descend into the depths of our being and confront unpleasant feelings such as envy, jealousy, greed, anger or sadness.
If we also confront our inner darker sides in this dark season and bring them into consciousness, we can transform them and free ourselves from the pressure that they cause. And whoosh…suddenly they’re not so scary anymore.
One thing needs to be noted here: Energy cannot be destroyed, it can only be changed. This also applies to the emotions that we drag along with us throughout the course of the year. They lurk around in our cells, getting on our nerves, just waiting to finally be noticed during this time.
This will not always feel good at first, but it will enable us to productively integrate these energies into our everyday life and let them flow into other forms of expression once we’ve diverted them.
The scorpion with his sting thus reminds us that darkness, self-examination, and change are essential for healthy development. It lures us out of rest to question and release old structures and withdraw for introspection, in order to be able to rise again from the ashes in new splendour like the phoenix.
Is there time for retreat in an optimised society?
Whether Greek mythology, nature or astrology – all of these reflections show us that autumn is a time of retreat and introspection.
Psychologists also agree that it is perfectly normal for us to feel less motivated and slower in the transition between autumn and winter. Feeling down is not necessarily winter depression, as the term is so often misused.
This “low” can even be explained medically, which we will go into in more detail in the next article. At this point, however, we can already say that the lack of light in the transition period we’ve described also changes our hormones.
The “sleep hormone” melatonin, in particular, is secreted more strongly than usual causing us to become tired more quickly. At the same time, the release of the “happiness hormone” serotonin, is reduced. No wonder that at this time of year you want to hang your head and hide like a hedgehog in hibernation.
In principle, none of this would be a problem if we had the opportunity to withdraw in this time and recharge our energy reserves. Many Nordic cultures show us how to do this. They allow themselves to “hibernate socially” during this time and use the break to look inside themselves.
The problem is unfortunately that in our society these natural tendencies are turned into symptoms. So, if you are more listless than usual and have mood swings during autumn and winter, you are quickly said to suffer from “winter depression”.
Almost all employers expect us to perform to the same standard as in other months. Time for self-reflection in this phase is a natural function of consciousness and very important for all of us. Maybe there are some bosses who need to read this.
What is it that we so desperately need in the dark season instead?
Instead of pushing ourselves to our limits in this dark season and challenging our bodies to perform at the same level with less energy, we should have the courage to dive into our own darkness.
The fact that the days are getting shorter and the nights longer is an invitation to face the darkness of life and face our own fears – and thus our ego and our subconscious. In this way we have the necessary time to prepare for the rebirth that awaits us only three months later.
We can train ourselves to see autumn and winter for what it is: a time of change, saying “goodbye”, letting go of inner resistance, and inner cleansing.
It is the time when we’re able to withdraw to our homes with a cup of cocoa without a guilty conscience, cancel appointments and let old issues come to the surface again: which thoughts are ready to be released and which still weigh heavily on you?
But above all, it’s a time of gratitude and retrospect. We can ask ourselves what has made us particularly happy in the past year and which difficult phases have caused us to grow. In this way we give both body and mind the tranquility they need to face the light with all our strength in spring and start a new cycle all over again.
So, what will you do for yourself on cold days?
We hope that this article has inspired you to retreat and dedicate time to yourself on cold and dark days. Things won’t always be easy during this time of metamorphosis – but they don’t have to be.
Or to put it in Richard Bach’s words: “What is the end of the world for the caterpillar, the master calls a butterfly.”
Immerse yourself in this time of change – with all your senses and the feelings that go with them. To be able to start anew stronger in the spring. With everything that you are left with.
Your Humanoo team