“In Norway, winter is viewed as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured.” –Kari Leibowitz
When Stanford University Ph.D. student Kari Leibowitz went to Tromsø, Norway, to study residents’ mental health during the depths of winters, she was surprised to find that rates of seasonal depression were lower than one might expect. So how is it that these Norwegians stayed so chipper and avoided the gloom many of us succumb to during the dark days of winter?
It’s not sun lamps or vitamin D pills, it’s simply changing your mindset that helps folks in these small Norwegian communities battle sessional depression. Fast Company spoke with Leibowitz about her research and found that people celebrate the things one can only do in winter:
“People couldn’t wait for the ski season to start. There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
Norwegians also have a word, koselig, which means a sense of coziness. People hunker down next to fires with warm beverages and embrace the tranquility brought about by the harshness of the season. There also exists a strong community aspect to making the most of the winter months. In Tromsø, there are tons of festivals and community activities, creating the sense that everyone was in it together.
Finally, Leibowitz discovered the locals are enamored with the sheer beauty of the season.
“Deep in the winter in Norway, when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, multiple hours a day can still look like sunrise and sunset, and against the snow. The colors are incredibly beautiful. The light is very soft and indirect.”
Leibowitz’s advice for folks stateside looking for an edge against sessional depression is to consciously try to have a positive wintertime mindset. Don’t complain about cold snaps and lack of sunlight, instead talk about going ice skating or having an excuse to drink hot chocolate all day. Go for a walk outside every day and make sure not to scale back on social plans.