As much of the United States and Europe brace for a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us worry we’re facing our darkest time yet and wonder how we’ll cope with the long winter nights. Our answer might be to look at the Norwegian lifestyle.
That’s exactly what health psychologist Kari Leibowitz did. Leibowitz traveled to Tromsø, Norway to study how people above the Arctic Circle thrived in the winter months of darkness. During its shortest days, Tromsø receives as little as just 2-3 hours of indirect sunlight, with the sun never even rising above the horizon. We already know that sunlight exposure can directly affect a person’s well-being. So how do these residents cope?
Building off of her past work, Leibowitz determined that having a positive mindset can help residents cope with the darkness. In her previous work, Leibowitz determined that the way we frame stressful events in our mind can determine how much we’re affected by them. In fact, those who see a stressful event as a challenge tend to cope better than those who focus on the more threatening aspects of the event. These differences can impact mood and physiological stress responses like heart rate and blood pressure, and can even be a factor in how quickly someone recovers from the event.
With this in mind, Leibowitz designed the “wintertime mindset scale.” Participants were asked to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with statements about winter. The answers to these questions predicted the participants’ wellbeing over winter. Agreement with statements such as “There are many things to enjoy about the winter” or “I love the coziness of the winter months” showed a positive correlation with a person’s well-being, and these individuals were more likely to have positive emotions throughout winter. Conversely, those who had a negative mindset, or those who agreed to statements such as, “winter is boring,” or “There are many things to dislike about winter” were more likely to have negative emotions throughout winter.
So how do you get that winter attitude? Think like a Norwegian. Welcome the change of seasons and find ways to appreciate it by focusing on the elements you enjoy most. With the proper clothing, getting outdoors and into nature during winter can be refreshing. Plus, it makes coming home to embrace the cozier elements of winter even better. Whether it’s bundling up for a hike in the snow, sipping hot chocolate by the fire or creating a cozy reading nook for yourself at homes, having winter-specific things to look forward to can go a long way in your winter survival strategy.