Many of us need to stay inside as much as possible to reduce the spread of COVID this winter, and with less sun and no end in sight of the pandemic staying positive can be hard. You can do it though!
We can learn from places that are cold and lack sunlight to see how they stay healthy both physically and mentally. In the Norwegian city of Tromsø they have some tips and tricks that we can all use.
But Tromsø regularly reports fewer cases of seasonal affective disorder per capita than much sunnier places. This recently piqued the interest of Kari Leibowitz, a health psychologist from Stanford University. She designed a survey called the “wintertime mindset scale,” which focused on Tromsø, plus two other Norwegian locales: Oslo, the nation’s capital, to the south, and Svalbard, home to one of the world largest populations of polar bears, to the north. Leibowitz asked locals a series of questions about the darkest days of the year, with particular emphasis on how the winter affected their mindset.
Leibowitz’s main takeaway from the study? The power of positive thinking. Norwegians employ techniques like “active coping,” “mental framing,” and “visualization” to get through tough winters. They’re still susceptible to anxiety and wind chill like everybody else, but they actively choose to view the polar night, and its surrounding months, as an opportunity. More northward Norwegians have more cause to embrace winter, because they’ve evolved to understand that they have no other choice. The most potent tool these locals have for getting through the winter isn’t hiding from it, but preparing for it, going out in it, naming it, seeing — with expectations kept low — if there might be some bright spots in all the darkness.