Norwegians are Better at Winter Than Anyone Else, and Here’s WhyNov 30, 2015
Long gone are the summer days when the sun didn’t set until the end of the evening – now when you look out your office window, it’s already dark by the time you get your afternoon tea at 4.30pm. It’s cold, windy, and it’s only going to get worse.
While many people are grudgingly preparing to face months of dreary, bitter cold gloom and hoping that Netflix and a blanket will carry them through to spring, Norwegians are handling winter differently. They are putting smiles on their faces and welcoming Jack Frost with open arms. What’s the secret to this cheery outlook on winter?
A change of mindset, it’s that simple.
Kari Leibowitz, a PhD student at Stanford University and writer for The Atlantic, found herself 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Tromsø, Norway, from August 2014 to June 2015. It was there that she really got a up close and personal taste of how punishing yet beautiful winter can be. From November through January, the city of 70,000 gets little sunlight and temperatures remain below freezing. Yet, people don’t hide out 24 hours a day in their homes, they go out and treat winter like it’s any other season of the year.
In the beginning, Kari wondered how people weren’t more depressed and asked around why no one was suffering from seasonal depression. The typical answer she had was: “Why would we?”. She found out that people in Norway simply don’t view winter as something to be endured, but to be enjoyed.
“People couldn’t wait for the ski season to start,” says Kari.”Getting outside is a known mood booster, and so Norwegians keep having outdoor activities, whatever is happening out there. There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
The people she met expressed their excitement for the arrival of Polar Nights and the opportunities for outdoor activities that winter would bring. “According to my friends, winter in Tromsø would be full of snow, skiing, the northern lights, a good hot chocolate after a winter stroll, and all things ‘koselig’, the Norwegian word for ‘cozy,'” added Kari.
Kari found that the people she met were enamored with the winter beauty around them, and for a girl who grew up on the Jersey shore like her, this was a new outlook on the season she hadn’t considered before.
“I just took it as a fact that everyone likes summer the best. But 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,” she says. “The light is very soft and indirect.”
Adjusting your outlook.
Now for those of us who don’t live within five minutes of picturesque mountains and cross-country ski trails, winter can look a little more urban. Slushy snow on city streets is never going to be a thing of beauty to be cherished. As Kari learned adjusting one’s outlook on winter can be simply changed by refusing to look at it in a negative way. It’s easier said than done, as many of us bond over friends and coworkers about the approaching blizzard or driveway that must be shoveled, but by stepping out of these winter misery conversations we can all embrace a more positive outlook on winter.
As one of Kari’s psychology professors, Carol Dweck, author of ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’ notes, those in a fixed mindset can be hindered from growth, but those in a more open mindset show more growth in self improvement.
In short, if you want to not just survive in winter but thrive in it, you need to change how you look at it. In private, you’ll still have the winter safety net that is binge-watching TV on the couch, if needed.