Change your mindset to enjoy winter

Winter is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere. How do you feel about it? If you view the winter as a dark period to get through—by commiserating with colleagues over the weather conditions you endured to get to the office or dreaming of your summer vacation plans—perhaps it’s time to change your mindset. By reframing how you think about winter, you might just find that your experience of the colder months changes entirely.

Think like a Norwegian

Researcher Kari Leibowitz discovered something interesting while living in Tromsø, Norway, a city that approaches the Arctic Circle and from mid-November to mid-January does not see the sun.

Rather than dreading the onset of winter, Norwegian friends around her seemed to be excited about it—they looked forward to the opportunities to spend time outside in the snow or cuddle up at home under a blanket practicing koselig, the Norwegian version of the infamous Danish hygge.

 Leibowitz found that these positive “winter mindsets” become more pronounced the further north in Norway one lived. They allowed Norwegians to enjoy, rather than endure, the winter.

By taking their lead and changing her own thought patterns, Leibowitz found that her winter experience was radically altered. The blue light, rather than being dark, became “cozy.” Rather than fearing time outside, she embraced friends’ invitations to walk or ski to outdoor meetups.

Change your mindset

Science supports the mental and physical benefits of this kind of mindset change. In an article about her research, Leibowitz talks about how the work of her mentor, Alia Crum, whose work focuses on subjective mindsets.

Leibowitz hypothesized that positive, growth-oriented mindsets played a role in the relatively low rates of seasonal depression in Tromsø, despite the long, dark winters. One study done by Crum showed how people who have a positive mindset toward stress—seeing it as productive rather than debilitating—were able to maintain healthier levels of cortisol.

Warm up to winter

Even if a growth mindset isn’t your natural orientation, we can all work to change the ways we think, starting with our feelings toward the winter. First, think of some things you might appreciate about the season, without even realizing it.

For example, if you’re a social butterfly during the summer months, perhaps you’re looking forward to having an excuse to stay home alone curled up with a good book. If light bothers you in the morning, maybe the onset of darker days means you’ll be getting better sleep.

Otherwise, try thinking of ways to embrace the season for what it is. Cold and snowy outside? Hit the slopes or go snowshoeing! Bright and bracing? Try meeting a friend for a brisk morning walk.

Practising mindfulness can also help you to enjoy the season. Indulge in a guided meditation or pay extra attention to the softer lights around you. You’ll be feeling the winter bliss in no time.

By Isabela Vera