Perspective | Winter is coming. But with these tips, you don’t have to fear it.

Seven ways to embrace the season's dark and cold days.

11/28/2021 3:38:00 PM

Perspective: Seven ways to embrace winter's dark and cold days

Seven ways to embrace the season's dark and cold days.

”: “Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt … Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season in which the world takes on a sparse beauty and even the pavements sparkle. It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order.”

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Embrace indoor pleasuresIn addition to resting more, we can also embrace the season as an opportunity for quiet, contemplative pursuits. For slower walks, bundled up in the cold. For baking bread and cookies with our children. For “putting the house in order.” For practicing art and music, writing poetry, reading the books that have been piling up on coffee tables and nightstands.

In my research, I’ve asked hundreds of people what cozy wintertime activities they enjoy and found that, when asked to thoughtfully reflect, almost everyone is able to come up with a long list of things they enjoy doing especially in winter darkness: from knitting and crafting to snuggling in front of the fire with a book to playing games and practicing yoga.

AdvertisementStory continues below advertisementIda Solhaug, a psychology researcher at the University of Tromso, explains how the dark season is a time for these quiet pursuits: “We are allowed to sit with blankets, drink a cup of tea, hear the wind, look into the fire, and gather.” The winter season grants us permission to slow down, rest and take stock. Rather than view winter as a time when we are limited by the lack of daylight, we can appreciate and celebrate this season for giving us the chance to reconnect with pleasures and pastimes of a different pace.

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(TWP)Get cozyFor indoor activities, coziness is key. “Hygge” in Danish, “koselig” in Norwegian, coziness is a hallmark of winter culture in the Nordic countries. Solhaug also talks about how light is used to deliberately create that cozy feeling: “We gather around the light when it is dark and cold. Indoors, we gather around the fireplace or light candles, which makes us associate the dark period as something extra koselig.”

Embracing and ritualizing cozy indoor pleasures is part of enjoying winter throughout the Nordics. In Iceland, November represents the start of the Jolabokaflod, or the “Christmas book flood,” in which new books are released leading up to Christmas, as the most popular Christmas present is a book. On Christmas Eve, many Icelanders crack open their books straight away and spend the evening reading and enjoying hot chocolate — a quintessentially cozy activity baked into one of their biggest holidays of the year.

Try softer lightTo bring coziness into your home this season, try banning overhead lighting at home and rely solely on lamps. To take it to the next level, use only candlelight. When possible, add a crackling fireplace and a warm beverage.Even the act of setting up this lighting is an invitation to pause. As a mindfulness expert, Solhaug explains, “The ritual of lighting candles may become valuable mindful moments, an opportunity to pause for a while.”

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AdvertisementStory continues below advertisementIt seems the key to enjoying the darkness isn’t to banish it by turning on as many lights as possible: It’s to turn the lights down low and invite the darkness in. This was a practice I observed everywhere in Tromso — restaurants and cafes had low lighting and plenty of candles, and even lunch breaks and meetings in the psychology department at the university could be conducted by candle light.

See how cooking, reading, doing yoga, showering or even binge-watching Netflix feels different in low, moody lighting. Notice how leaning into winter makes it feel completely different from fighting against.(TWP)Enjoy the light when you canWe’re still allowed to love the light. Even in the Arctic of Tromso, bakers work round-the-clock before the sun returns preparing solboller, “sun buns,” a traditional doughnut eaten to celebrate the end of the “Polar Night.” It is the two-month period in winter during which the sun doesn’t rise at all, and Tromso receives only a few hours of indirect light each day as the sun skirts below the horizon.

Early risers — or morning commuters — can revel in the extra light in the morning. We can bundle up and sip morning coffee or eat lunch outside or take a walk in the early afternoon to enjoy the daylight while we can. In Tromso, it was common to take a break outdoors at midday, to enjoy the small amount of diffuse, indirect light present as the sun skirted just below the horizon.

As the days get shorter, those of us who feel extra groggy in the morning might benefit from the purchase of a sun lamp to simulate morning light. At the university, the student counseling organization hosts a “light cafe,” where students can sip coffee and sit in front of a sun lamp to help regulate students’ biological clocks during the polar night. Even back in the United States now, I use one when I sit down at my computer to start my day.

Read more: The Washington Post »

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