How to actually enjoy winter? Hygge is the answer

How to enjoy winter

Waking up to a snowstorm in Brooklyn, 2017

True winter ‘hygge’ – a lit fireplace, staying indoors and getting cozy

The other day, I stumbled upon this article. It touched upon how Norwegians endure long, dark and cold winters without getting winter depressions. The answer is great – however, I do want to argue that plenty of Scandinavians get winter depressions, myself included.

But back to the answer as to how Norwegians keep winter depressions out the door;

“people view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured,”

Many years ago, when I was in high school, as winter arrived, so would my depressive state of mind.  I had to be in school by 8 am. Get up unreasonably early, while it was pitch black outside. Get out in the freezing cold outside my bed. Bike five kilometers to school. Focus and concentrate from 8 am – 4 pm and try to learn whatever the teacher was teaching. As I was off from school, it was dark again. Keep in mind, in Danish winters, the sun rises at 8.45 and sets at 3.30 if it even shows that day! Most days are just grey. Doing this routine felt unbearable. But as soon as the slightest signs of spring came knocking on the door, off went my winter depression.

We can’t control the weather

So how do Scandinavians survive these dark, dark winters? It’s all about hygge – and the mindset. As I graduated high school, I left my winter depressions as a closed chapter together with high school. I said goodbye to 8 am morning classes. I was now able to get more sleep during winter. Scientifically proven, we need an average of one-hour of extra sleep during winter. Because I almost work solely on my own terms, no more early hours for this night owl.

Further, I found out that my moods were often dependent on the weather. The sun’s out? I’m full of energy and smiles! It’s grey? I’m low on energy, on the verge of a headache. Rain, cold and snow? Forget it. One day I read a book that touched upon the subject that simply by shifting your mindset and not letting the weather control your mood, you will feel better. Why was I letting the weather control me when I have no way of controlling the weather?

That’s the conclusion in the article;

“But overall, mindset research is increasingly finding that it doesn’t take much to shift one’s thinking. “It doesn’t have to be this huge complicated thing,” says Leibowitz. “You can just consciously try to have a positive wintertime mindset and that might be enough to induce it.” 

It’s all about hygge

And besides the mindset shift, Scandinavians have more methods linked to dealing with the cold and darkness. Hygge, appropriate clothing and knowing that it isn’t forever. Instead of hating winter, we make the best of it. We stay indoors and do full on hygge. Drinking hot beverages, cozying up with loved ones under warm, soft blankets, watching good movies, light up tons of candles and the fireplace, if there is one. Actually, on the contrary, I find myself excited for indoor winter hygge (which is totally a word in Danish – vinterhygge!), when it’s summer. We also make sure to enjoy the outdoors. Scandinavians live by the belief that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. So dress up, and get out and enjoy the winter landscape!

And lastly, we know that winter isn’t forever. By enduring winter and making the most of it, we are very much aware that spring and summer are coming. And being well-acquainted with the contrast – the long, dark winter – we appreciate the sunshine, Scandinavian summer nights and the warm weather even more.

It’s -8 degrees celcius in NYC today, but the sun is out. I’m fine, happy, and very excited to enjoy the last part of winter before March and spring are on their way.


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