Winter is, for me, one of my most hated things. And unfortunately, living in North Dakota, where our winters chill to the bone, bury you in snow, and last for what feels like most of the year, makes for a pretty miserable existence.
But here we are, and as much as I’d love to move, it’s simply not a feasible option for us yet. And so I’m needing to find some joy in the winter season outside of Christmas. Last year, I put up our winter/Christmas decorations early (right after Thanksgiving) and left them up into at least February – which did help me feel a little happier, and which I’ll certainly be doing again this year.
Then there is the bit about my (self-diagnosed) Season Affective Disorder (SAD) – when the sun stays behind the clouds for weeks (or at least what seems that way), and it’s too cold to spend much time outside; my mood is blue and my energy level is nearing empty. And so my step-mom sent me a Happy Light which has helped immensely. Just a few minutes in front of that little gem and I’m happier and more awake.
Then a friend of mine shared this article with me; The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter. This was one of those things that I read at just the right time, just as I’m beginning to see all these predictions for the coming winter and how cold and snowfilled it’s supposed to be. The article opens with:
“As the days get darker and colder in much of the northern hemisphere, it’s easy to indulge in gloom. For the next few months, you’ll be shivering. You’ll be battling foul weather. Thanks to daylight saving time there will be no chance to see the sun after work.
The gloom leads to a common question: What can I do to cope with the dark and cold?
If you truly want to be happy during winter, though, this is the wrong approach to the season. Changing your mindset can do more than distracting yourself from the weather.”
Here comes the secret from Norway: People there “‘view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured’ … and that makes all the difference.”
If you’re like me, you’re thinking “okay, great. Change my attitude. How the heck do I do that?!”. Luckily, the article shares some specific lessons from the Norwegians:
1) They celebrate the things that can only be done in winter (i.e. skiing for them, sledding for us, ice skating, etc.). According to the article: Getting outside is a known mood booster, and so Norwegians keep going outside, whatever is happening out there. “There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
2) Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets. There’s a community aspect to it too; it’s not just an excuse to sit on the couch watching Netflix. So for me, that means doing the wintry things that make me happy; have twinkle lights hanging around my house, curling up in front of the fireplace, drinking hot chocolate …
3) Enjoy the beauty of the season. There is something about the frost on the trees and the clean snow blanketing the fields that is truly beautiful. Embrace it. I find that I have no photos in my collection of North Dakota winters, so this year – cold or not, I want to take some time to photograph the beauty of the season for myself.
For those of us in the states, we spend a lot of time complaining about the winter. So if we’re focusing on the negative aspects of the season, what’s the logical way to change our mindset so that we have a positive attitude?
simply refuse to participate in the Misery Olympics. Talk about how the cold gives you a chance to drink tea or hot chocolate all day. Talk about ice skating, or building snowmen. Bundle up and go for a walk outside, knowing that you’ll likely feel warmer and happier after a few minutes. Better yet, go with a friend. Social plans are a great reason to haul yourself out from under the covers.
That is my goal for this winter. I need to be happier for my husband and for my girls. I need to focus on the good things instead of the bad. This applies not just in my attitude about winter but in all things.