Over at Fast Company, I have a post up on “The Norwegian Secret To Enjoying A Long Winter.” I had originally planned to write a piece on how to stay happy when it’s getting dark and cold, and give standard advice like get some exercise, go outside at lunch, listen to upbeat music, etc.
But then I came across research from Kari Leibowitz. She spent a year in Tromsø, Norway, on a Fulbright scholarship. Tromsø is so far north that from late November to late January, the sun never rises above the horizon. Yet despite this polar night, there are relatively low rates of seasonal depression. She wanted to see what she could learn that people could use elsewhere. She went around asking people “why don’t you have seasonal depression?” Their response was “why would we?”
It turns out that in these small communities in the far north, winter is viewed as something to be celebrated, rather than endured. If you make a mindset shift to embrace the season, there are really many wonderful things about it.
First, there are fun activities such as skiing and outdoor ice skating that can only happen in winter. There are beautiful wintry scenes as the sunrise/sunset type light plays on the snow. Second, there’s a Norwegian word, “koselig,” that means (roughly) coziness. They bundle up in sweaters and light candles and sit around fireplaces and eat comfort foods. Think the best parts of Christmas, without the stress. There’s also a real community aspect to it — that we are all in this frozen world together. So people get together with friends and hold festivals. They make sure to get outside, because there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.
I’ve been pondering this as my part of the world tilts toward winter. The time change means that it’s dark around 5 p.m. Waiting at the cold start of the Rock n’ Roll half marathon last week was just a glimpse of the weather that’s going to roll in.
But I’m trying to adopt this mindset shift, because there are many things I do love about winter. November is one of my favorite months — starting with the bright fall colors and ending with the coziness of Thanksgiving and the anticipation of the Christmas season. I don’t ski but I do like walking outside and looking at the dollops of snow on evergreens looking like whipped cream. Coffee is lovely on cold mornings. I sleep well under down blankets. I’m going to buy myself some new sweaters and maybe light some candles on my desk. If I can take the coziness of Christmas through to February, then it’ll be a great season — even if it’s dark and cold.
In other news: It’s the opposite of polar night, but I spent the days around the summer solstice in Trondheim, Norway one year. I also wrote a novel called Trondheim 227 that’s about a biotech genius gone rogue. It has never seen the light of day, alas.