How to benefit from a Scandinavian outlook this autumn and winter

Category: News

For some, the autumn and winter months might be something to look forward to, as they bring about Halloween, Christmas, and the possibility of snow.

But for others, the extended night and cold days can be a catalyst for a drop off in their mood and levels of energy.

It is commonly referred to as seasonal affective disorder (Sad) or sometimes “seasonal associated depression”. It can cause extended periods of low mood brought about by reduced exposure to sunlight and other environmental changes.

For certain individuals, a lack of sunlight and extended exposure to cold weather could also potentially have serious effects on their physical health, such as a weakening of their bones and an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.

It can be bad enough in the UK when the sun starts to set at four or five in the afternoon, so how do people in colder and darker nations, such as those in Scandinavia, manage to protect themselves against the worst effects?

Here’s how you might benefit from a “Scandinavian outlook” this autumn and winter.

The Scandinavian people adopt a positive and communal mindset

The autumn and winter months can be much more challenging in Scandinavia compared to the UK. There are parts of northern Norway, Finland, and Sweden that might only have an hour or two of sunlight during some parts of the year.

Yet, surprisingly, many parts of Scandinavia, including areas within the Arctic Circle, report relatively low levels of Sad.

Fast Company reports that data from the region was so surprising that Kari Leibowitz, a PhD student at Stanford University and writer for the Atlantic, travelled to the city of Tromsø in northern Norway for nearly a year to study the mindset, diet, and overall health of the locals.

She found a city that was vibrant and alive even during the colder, darker months with outdoor music, festivals, and bright lights throughout its streets and marketplaces.

For many in Scandinavia, the best way to cope is to have a positive mindset.

It is one of the many reasons why nations like Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden regularly feature in the top 10 happiest nations in the world.

The New Yorker reports on the rising popularity of the Danish philosophy of “hygge”. A finalist for the 2016 Oxford Dictionaries word of the year, the term is defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or wellbeing”.

Hygge is about finding the things in life that feel like a warm embrace or a comforting hug. It might involve:

  • Cozying up by a wooden log fire
  • Having access to plenty of soft woolly blankets
  • Lighting aromatic candles around the house once the sun sets
  • Enjoying a hearty meal or sipping on a warm drink, such as cherry gløgg – a type of Scandinavian mulled wine.

Some Danish doctors even recommend “tea and hygge” as a cure for the common cold.

In Sweden, they champion a concept known as “lagom”, which relates to enjoying pleasures in moderation, so you can help share the excess with others. It is about harmonizing with your loved ones and peers, and seeking out communal benefits.

It’s said to have derived form a Viking phrase “laget om”. It would indicate a need to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves, such as only taking a sip of mead that’s being passed around a room, so that no one is left out.

The benefits of fostering strong bonds with your loved ones, peers, and greater community shouldn’t be underestimated. The world’s “Blue Zones”, the areas with the longest average life expectancy and many centenarians, share these strong familial and community traits.

So, if you find yourself with money or time to spare this autumn and winter, you might benefit from sharing the love and helping the lives of your loved ones. You may discover it gives you a timely emotional boost too.

Make the autumn and winter work for you by embracing the outdoors

“Friluftsliv” is a Norwegian term that refers to embracing the outdoors and adopting a simple life in in tune with nature and your surroundings.

Norwegians tend not to hide away in the winter months within their homes. Instead, they take what opportunities they have to get outdoors and embrace the cold air.

This might involve:

  • Playing in the snow
  • Walks through nature or local parks
  • Winter bike rides
  • Getting outside to soak up as much sunlight as possible.

There is also a common belief across Scandinavian nations that you should be smart with your choice of clothing and dress properly for the weather. The benefits of a thick, full-length coat, woolly scarf, and warm gloves shouldn’t be underestimated.

Don’t lock yourself away and hibernate this autumn and winter

The cold and dark months of the year might make you feel like an old bear ready to hibernate until spring arrives. But this could compound the effects of Sad, as sleeping too much and not getting enough sunlight can be bad for your physical and mental health.

It’s important to maintain healthy sleeping habits and ensure you get enough rest to feel energised for the following day.

Read more: Irregular sleep shortens life expectancy. Here’s how to rescue yours

That doesn’t mean you can’t make tweaks for the winter, perhaps incorporating a nap or two to give you a midday energy boost. But it is vital that with sunlight in short supply, you make the most of those moments each day.

You could also consider acquiring a Sad lamp for your bedroom, which can help with adjusting to darker months, and can give your mind a helpful boost.

Whatever you decide, just remember you’re not alone. Stay active, reach out to people, embrace life, and you just might find yourself starting next year with a spring in your step.