Keep the mood up during the dark season – best advice from the psychologist!

25 November 2021 | By Yogobe

How do you stay alert and happy during the dark season? The American psychology researcher Kari Leibowitz traveled to Tromsø in northern Norway to find out how they could be so brisk and not particularly low on energy at all. Here are her best tips!

Mindset for health and well-being during the winter

Kari Leibowitz is a researcher in psychology, studying which mindsets that increase health and well-being. She was interested in how it could be that seasonal depressions were lower than one might have imagined in Tromsø – which is so far north that the sun is never seen from the end of November to the end of January. Kari belongs to Stanford University in California, where many people go to get the chance to see the sun during winter. What was it that made the Norwegians stay alert and happy without fleeing the country?

"Why would we be depressed during the winter" she got as an answer when she asked the residents. She realized that the most important factor was the mindset. Not that you trick yourself into liking winter, but that you actually appreciate the season and all that it entails. Kari's research answers are from her studies between 2014 and 2015, but surely they are just as relevant to us, even here in Sweden?

Why the people of Tromsø feel good in the darkness of winter

  • They see the winter as something to appreciate and enjoy, not something to endure. In other words, they have a different perception of the cold weather and dark times than Kari first thought.
  • They celebrate the things they can only do in the winter. They cannot wait for the ski season to start.
  • Being outside is always good for the mood, and the people of Tromsø continue to get out, regardless of the weather conditions. The old cliché "there is no bad weather just bad clothes" is definitely applicable here.
  • The Norwegian word "koselig" (cozy) is a health promoter! Kari saw that peoples' ability to "have the best part of Christmas all the time, but without stress" did well. That is, they lit candles and fires, drank hot drinks and cuddled in soft, comfortable blankets. Kari emphasizes the social aspect of the coziness too. So enjoy cuddling up with your family or friends on the couch watching movies, playing games, talking or enjoying good food.
  • Tromsø has several festivals and activities that create a sense of community.
  • Finally, Kari was amazed by the fact of how beautiful it could be in the middle of winter. Personally, Kari thought that everyone loved summer the most, but she heard the inhabitants talking about the beauty of nature and she saw it with her own eyes. Appreciating the beauty of the moment became an important key of feeling good even in the darkness.

Social contexts important for well-being

Kari considers that there are other aspects of the culture that may be behind the health benefits, which you may not have in other places that are dark most of the fall and winter. She saw that the small Norwegian municipalities have strong social ties, something that is important for our health regardless of the season. 

This is what we can do today to feel better during the dark season

What Kari brought home to the States, is that it can be difficult to get the same good feeling in the dark part of the year when there are no ski tracks outside the window and when people talk in negative terms about the darkness. When it is dark and grey, and not white of snow and coziness, can we still keep our energy up? We can all find things we appreciate, like taking a walk with a friend, drinking something hot wrapped in a cuddly blanket or if it's snow outside – going out and playing like a child.

It may not look so tempting at first if it is stormy or biting overcast, but put on warm weather-resistant clothes and get out to get fresh air, it makes us more alert. If you have the opportunity to go outside when it is still light, if you do not live in the far north, do so, but otherwise it is good to get out regardless of the circumstances.

The most important of all according to Kari is not to follow the negative spiral of weather talk, but to focus on what makes you feel good.

The text is inspired/facts from Fast Company: "The Norwegian Secret To Enjoying A Long Winter" and Karis' own text on The Atlantic: The Norwegian Town Where the Sun Doesn't Rise

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