As the days get darker and the holidays fade into a warm memory, it’s time to deal with reality: the winter-time blues. Winter can be a tough time for anyone, what with the shorter days and seasonal depression. But you can harness this powerful and little-known Norwegian secret to beat those winter blues.
Change Your Mindset
For the next few months, most of us are going to spend our (shorter) days and nights shivering indoors. We’ll get up in darkness, leave work in darkness. Mix in some foul weather, and you have yourself a genuine cocktail for doom and gloom.
So what can you do to cope with the dark and the cold?
Well, according to research conducted by Kari Leibowitz from Stanford University, you can adopt the Norwegian approach and winter mindset.
From August 2014 to June 2015, PhD student Leibowitz conducted a study in Tromsø, northern Norway. This beautiful, mountain-tucked town is so far north that from November to late January the sun never even rises there! However, Leibowitz noticed that despite their distance from central society and long and dark winters, the stunning town had overall lower rates of mental health problems – especially in the area of seasonal depression.
So the study was born.
Initially, Leibowitz’s research focused around “Why aren’t people here more depressed?” The goal was to discover the answer and translate those results into the American mental health space. But once Leibowitz delved into the study, she discovered that she was asking entirely the wrong question. Instead, the study shifted, and a different question began to be asked: “Why don’t you have seasonal depression?”
The answer she received? A resounding “Why would we?”
The gist of it? People in northern Norway viewed winter as something to be enjoyed. For them, it wasn’t a dark and arduous time. It was a magical and beautiful time, when the Earth was still, mysterious and beautiful. By changing their perception of winter and looking at the positives, they transformed a dreary season into something breathtaking. And that? That made all the difference, according to Leibowitz.
And What Else?
Of course, changing your mindset to echo that of the Norwegians isn’t entirely simple.
Culturally, Norwegians differ from many other western cultures, especially American culture. They enjoy small, tight-knit communities with strong social ties. Generally, the people see life and living in society as a, “We’re all in this together,” sort of thing. There is less of an emphasis on the individual aspects of western culture.
There is still more we can take away from them about surviving winter, though.
Leibowitz noted that not only did the Norwegians change their mindset about winter, but they also celebrated it physically. How? By celebrating the things that can only be done in winter.
In Norway, the start of ski season is one of the biggest events of the year. People can’t wait for the season to open, and when it does it is with their own raucous version of celebration. Instead of letting the cold and the barrenness get to them, the Norwegians find reasons to get outdoors during the winter. This gives them a happier association with the more extreme elements and transforms their survival of it.
The Norwegians also have a word that is associated only with winter: koselig. It means a sense of coziness. You know? Like the best parts of Christmas. Those warm and cuddly feelings that you get when you think of being cuddled up in a warm blanket, drinking hot chocolate in front of the fireplace? That feeling.
But koselig is more than that. It’s also that feeling of community that we get when we’re stuck indoors during the winter months. When the family is brought together by a dwindling social calendar, or you have your relatives around for the seasonal holidays. The Norwegians add joy to their winter by celebrating this feeling through a plethora of outdoor community activities and festivals. There is nothing like the feeling of comfort that others can bring.
Fine…So What Should I Take From This?
You may not be able to go out and cross-country ski. Your town may not have a beautiful, northern-light lit outdoor festival. There are still things you can do to change your mindset and mimic the Norwegian way of beating the winter blues.
Instead of bitc**** about the winter, insist on finding the beauty instead. When someone starts to complain about winter misery, talk about something you love in winter. Talk about how you love enjoying hot tea or hot chocolate on cold days. Or maybe discuss how much you love how beautiful and quiet it is just after the first snowfall.
When you really start to feel down, bundle up and go outside for a walk. After a few moments of adjusting, you’ll feel warmer and happier which, in turn, will change how you feel about the cold. If you can, take a friend along and chat about positive, happy things. The social plans will give you a better reason to get off the couch and get outside to enjoy the weather. It will also help you friends or family beat their wintertime blues.
It seems like a daunting task, but it doesn’t take much to beat or prevent that seasonal depression.
Instead of dealing with something complex, simply shift your thinking and find the positive in the season. Whether its enjoying the weather outdoors or simply finding an excuse to meet up with old friends, make winter the season you enjoy most. After all, it is one of the slower times of our yearly calendar. Make the most of that time and the most of the season and scare that winter doom-and-gloom away.