“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.” Anonymous.
Winter blues. Seasonal affective disorder. Call it what you will, but a lot of us feel that unmistakable blah of winter.
The first person to put up holiday decorations the day after Labor Day is the same one brought low by actual winter. Snow in early November fills us with joy and jingle, but snow storms in mid-January mire us in malaise.
Why? I think it’s mindset.
During the pandemic, I went on a philosophical search (aka Google) to find ways to appreciate the “now.” Learning to love the place you’re in while you’re in it was a key coping strategy for my time in lockdown. I wound up painting rooms that I didn’t like, moving furniture around to change my view, and getting to know the birds in my backyard trees.
How many times have you been on vacation and said, we have to come back here? I certainly have. It’s great to plan and look forward, but you’re missing the present. I’ve been on vacation thinking about the next vacation. I’ve failed to appreciate a beautiful sunset because I’m wondering if we can book this condo during the same time next year.
With that thought in mind, how do we find joy in snow….now, not just went it’s attached to the holiday?
Unsurprisingly, Norwegians have this figured out. They’ve turned appreciating winter into an art. I aimed to follow their lead when it came to the long winters in my home state, Michigan. It’s not exactly the tropics. Winter is an integral part of our lives here, second only to complaining about winter, followed closely by complaining about August.
The first step is embracing friluftsliv! This is a Norwegian concept that translates to “open-air life.” Or, as your mother used to say, "Go play outside!" Norwegians contend the cold feels good. The brisk air fills the lungs with robustness versus the oppressive wilting that the humidity of July can induce.
Filuftsliv also means dressing for being outdoors and expecting that you’re going to be outside for a gathering. Norwegians wear layers, wool socks, and thermal underwear. We do it for tailgate parties. Why can’t we do it for a winter birthday? In fact, we love doing it when football is the endgame. What changes in February?
Obviously, sometimes, say, when there’s an ice storm, going outside is ridiculous. That’s why winter countries like Norway, Finland, and Denmark not only enjoy the outdoors but they also make achieving coziness indoors an art. It’s called hygge. Hygge is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Think mulled wine and warm nooks. The Christmas tree isn’t the end-all of winter décor. Enjoy a crackling fire in the fireplace, comfy blankets, and cozy chairs. Grab hygge with both mittens and snuggle into that fluffy couch with the fluffy slippers and the fluffy blanket.
Embracing hygge means embracing comfort. What better time than winter to wear our giant sweaters? In fact, those comfy sweats are the goal. If one does hygge right, the sweats are so comfy they shouldn’t be seen in public. There’s a word for that, too, hyggebukser. My closet is bursting with hyggebukser leggings!
No one loves every aspect of winter, but friluftsliv and hygge are about shifting your mindset. And seeing each new season as a gift. A positive winter mindset isn’t a genetic trait nor is it reserved for Norwegians. It is something we can adopt and cultivate.
We rush into Winter Wonderland when it’s still autumn. Maybe that’s a mistake, not because it starts the holidays too soon, but because by the time winter really sets in, we’ve been fa la la-ing since October. We have a good two or three-month window of loving the “holiday season.” Opening that holiday season window just a smidge later, closer to December, might help us stick it out until March.
And, if the mindset shift doesn’t work, book a trip to somewhere sunny. The wind chill will be here when you get back.