Norwegians have a word—koselig—that doesn’t directly translate to English. It connotes “a sense of coziness,” and maybe the reason there’s no direct English translation is that we’re often better at lamenting winter’s woes than we are celebrating the coziness of the season. Kari Leibowitz, a researcher and PhD student at Stanford, recently visited Tromsø, a city in northern Norway—a place where the sun never reaches above the horizon from November to January. And contrary to what many of us may think, she discovered that its residents rarely suffer from seasonal affective disorder–they actually enjoy their long winters instead of cursing them, as we often do.
For residents in Tromsø, where the sun is rarely seen all winter, the season is not something to lament. Instead, it’s a time of koselig—a time to gather with loved ones, pour a cup of hot cocoa, and embrace the comfort and joy of the season. Here’s how you can jump on the Norwegian joy train and start embracing winter this year.
Make More Plans
It can be so tempting to stay inside and watch Netflix all winter, but the holidays offer us a chance to socialize and connect with friends and family. Norwegians view winter as a time to laugh and bond with friends—both indoors and out. Remind yourself to consciously seek out other’s company in the winter instead of letting months go by with little human contact aside from your Netflix queue. Set up ice-skating dates, wine tastings, or even movie nights with your friends. As humans, we are hardwired to crave connection, and when we don’t seek out social bonding, we miss creating that sense of cozy closeness that can boost our mood on even the darkest winter days.
Get Outside. No, Really.
Okay, we know those first few days when the temperature drops can make it super appealing to stay indoors. But short of another polar vortex, there’s really no reason you can’t bundle up and still get moving outdoors. (Consider it an excuse to purchase a few new cute layers!) The sunsets of a Norwegian winter are absolutely breathtaking–but so are our own! You just have to get out there and look.
If you’re hesitant to start making outdoor activities a regular winter occurrence, you can even try warming up with some squats or lunges before heading outside so your internal body temp rises a bit beforehand. Enlist a friend to go for a long walk with you once or twice a week, or try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or other outdoor activities. Even 15 minutes outside can help—natural sunlight helps produce serotonin in the brain, boosting your mood and counteracting seasonal affective disorder.
Colder temps can wreak havoc on your skin, but why not use that as an excuse to pay extra special attention to it? Take care of your skin like the Scandinavians do: by eating a good diet, keeping it protected from the sun, and sweating it out in a sauna or steam room! Your skin is the largest organ you have; sweat helps to detoxify your body and give your skin a refreshing glow. Add some Epsom salts to your bath, luxuriate your skin with fresh body oil afterwards (maybe a relaxing scent like lavender?) and moisturize from head to toe. Spending extra time drawing a nice bath or treating your skin will help you melt away those winter blues and keep you excited for the next cozy day ahead.
Create Some Cozy, Stress-Free Ambiance
The biggest takeaway from reading the research on Norwegians attitudes towards winter was that they truly embrace the festivities of the season instead of letting the holidays be stressful occasions. Make this your year to plant treetops or decorate with wreaths, cinnamon sticks or even fresh flowers. Keeping some living things in your house during the winter can brighten your mood and create a sense of wintertime ambiance. Light a candle, make a fire and cozy up with some blankets and your nearest and dearest. Invite friends over for a party and resist the urge to stress about appetizers and wine–instead, host a potluck where everyone brings something and the laughter and joy you create is more important than doing everything at once.