It has honestly been a winter wonderland around here this week, with bright sun, glittering snow and afternoons spent sledding on the driveway. But I know the harsh reality of winter will eventually set in, with prolonged stretches of the cold, gray and gloomy. The mood around here tends to drop with the temperature, so I’ve always wondered how the Nordic countries, with their ridiculously short days and icy temps, always seem to top the World Happiness Report. So I turned to the Interwebs to figure out why.
Not surprisingly, things like a high GDP per capita, universal healthcare, generous parental leave and gender equality play a big role. While it’s interesting to consider how these ideas might apply to organizational management, I was really looking for tangible things I could implement to boost my family’s happiness this winter. Here’s what I found:
Maximize natural light. Scandinavian interior design is known for its clean lines, white-washed woods and large, curtain-free windows. The reason? Light. We’re generally more alert, productive and happy when our indoor time allows for ample natural light.
Get outside. Scandinavians don’t let the cold trap them inside. They just bundle up and get out there. Kids are encouraged to play outside every day and even babies are left outside to nap in their prams at surprisingly low temperatures. Biking to school or work is common in cities like Copenhagen and the vast majority of bikers continue to get out even during the winter’s coldest months.
Enjoy some carbs. All that hiking, biking and playing in freezing temps will burn a lot of calories. Which means you can compensate with lovely baked goods.
Volunteer your time. It seems that Nordic folk volunteer quite a lot, which contributes to a sense of belonging and collective responsibility. Feeling connected and purposeful leads to greater happiness. And volunteering generally requires getting out of the house, which fights those cabin-fever induced doldrums.
Get cozy. While getting out is important, staying in and cuddling by the fire has its benefits too. The Danish have a term, “hygge“, that loosely translates to “coziness” but encompasses a broader sense of sanctuary, community and closeness. It’s about creating time and space to enjoy the moment and spend quality time with family and friends. Crackling fires, warm candlelight and comfortable spaces are key.
How about you? What do you do to combat the winter blues?