You bend down to turn your bike lights on, looking out at the dark morning sky. Pedaling your bike to work, you begin shivering as the winter air bites at any exposed skin. Arriving at work, you hang up your bike and head to your desk. Roughly eight hours later, you clip on your helmet and wheel the bike out the door, back into the dark. A big sigh involuntarily exhales and you start pedaling home. Another day ends without seeing the sun.

Winters are tough. The short days and cloud cover can hide the sun for weeks. Combine these short days with cold temperatures and variable weather and you have a recipe for some serious wintertime gloom. However, hope is not lost.

In this edition of Therm-a-Rest Beta, Jenny Abegg teaches us some Norwegian vocab and her tips on beating the winter blues.

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Leaves have withered and fallen, rendering trees bare and sidewalks slippery with wet, soggy foliage. The sun hangs low and doesn’t hang out for long. Your morning commute is in the dark, and your evening commute is too. The thrill of summer vacations and flings, sun-kissed skin, barefoot adventures, and wandering evenings outside are long gone.

For many, this is a very difficult time of year. Biologically speaking, our bodies want to slow down, put on a few pounds, and hibernate. And yet, in the world we live in, we’re told to keep going – continue working, socializing, exercising – even with the excitement and spunk of summer. The dark and cold of winter only gets in the way: we fight the change and loathe the weather, yet inevitably notice that finding motivation to keep our summertime mojo feels effortful, at times even impossible.

Norwegians, however, know how to do winter. These fine northern folk embrace rather than fight their natural tendencies, and in turn, their rates of winter depression are surprising low. This perspective is summed up with the word koselig, a whimsical concept that is best described in images: curling up under a wool blanket in front of a fire, drinking wine by candlelight with friends, a home-cooked meal, enjoying a snow day with a good book and a mug of steaming hot chocolate, and sweaters. Lots of sweaters. Essentially, it’s “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” but all season long.

Photo: Steph Abegg

For you, staying healthy and happy during the dark months might mean getting up early to enjoy the sun, continuing to be active, and enjoying the outdoors during the daylight as much as possible. Makes sense to me. Inevitably though, the night comes and the cold descends. The change is here to stay – at least for a season – and we might as well make the most of it. With some help from the cozy little notion of koselig, here are a few ways to do just that:

  1. Stay Social

During the winter in Norway, friends and family opt for gathering in each other’s homes rather than public environments, enjoying simple, homemade dinners in the comfort and intimacy of a private, small space. With the lights down low and candles lit, loved ones enjoy one another’s company while wine bottles are passed and wholesome food is consumed. Summers are for long evenings on the trail, getting home for a quick dinner before bed. But winters: winters can be for slow enjoyment of food and friends. Perhaps start a dinner night that rotates between the homes of friends or family, or host a meal at your place each week.

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  1. Ambience is Key

A day at work and a bouldering session at the gym, and now home. It’s 8pm – too early to go to bed, but too dark and cold to think about leaving the house again. So, you heat water for a cup of tea, put on your warmest sweater, light a few candles, queue up some relaxing tunes, wrap your legs in a wool blanket, and settle in with a book. It doesn’t take much to create this cozy scene for yourself, and will make your evening significantly more enjoyable.

Photos: Christina Hofmann

Photos: Christina Hofmann

  1.   Find an Indoor Hobby

As people who love to be outside, we clearly love our active hobbies, and often even organize our lives around these passions. However, winter is a great time to become a more well-rounded person by learning new things and adopting new hobbies. Maybe it’s cooking or knitting, woodworking, refinishing furniture, or learning how to bake bread. Or maybe it’s as simple as journaling or reading more – taking this precious time to develop more of your intellectual or emotional self. Just remember to set the koselig ambiance first!

  1. Bring Cozy Outside

There’s a saying in Norway that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Cold or wet weather doesn’t stop these folks from venturing outside, and they cherish winter as their opportunity to do season-specific activities such as skiing and ice skating. So this winter, be a little more like the Norwegians and embrace the weather. And when you do, bring the spirit of koselig with you: build camp fires in the snowy woods, indulge in thermoses full of hot chocolate on your cross-country ski adventure, explore the backcountry cabins, yurts, or fire towers in your area, or even learn how to build a quinzee or snow cave for a warm night inside icy walls!

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Photos: Steph Abegg

Photo: Luke Stefurak

  1. Stop Complaining – Embrace What Is

Koselig is not just wool sweaters and candles, sheepskin blankets and community meals. Koselig is, at its heart, a mindset that welcomes the changes of winter. Here in the States, we feel pressure to stick to our routine, keep busy, sleep little, and stay as fit we do in summer months. We bond with each other in the winter months by complaining about the weather or the lack of daylight. We get S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder). We fight reality. This winter, however, remember koselig. Make a resolution with yourself and your friends and family to take full advantage of the weather and season this winter, and to enjoy these months for what they offer. And maybe, just maybe, you might – wearing a cozy sweater of course – find yourself enjoying the dark days.

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