Snowflakes floated around me, chilling the tip of my nose. My cheeks crinkled into a smile as I strolled past booths of Gløgg and elk burgers, haggled with cheery vendors over the best price for that sheepskin rug (in Norwegian), sampled free gingerbread cookies, and listened to the laughter that tickled the air from the children ice skating on the nearby pond. All my Thomas Kinkade fantasies came to life. If only I could bottle up the charm and happiness of a Nordic winter and bring it back to America.
I visited Norway for a sister getaway during the shortest and coldest days of winter. From the hidden acoustic concert by the river, to the cafes where we sat cozy under the warm red glow of the heated lanterns, seated on a sheepskin rug, a fire crackling nearby, and a wool blanket covering my lap, the stage was set for adventure. We hiked the backwoods of Jotunheiman National Park and explored the outdoor markets.
But back Stateside, I struggled to foster the same idyllic conditions in my day to day. Working from my home office translated into huddling on the couch of my third floor walk-up in downtown Manhattan, jacket on, a heated blanket, wool socks, and space heater to equalize the warmth throughout the (subpar) heat-controlled apartment. And I cannot forget the endless moisturizer to keep dry skin at bay. If you are like me, you have seen enough fuzzy sock pictures on Instagram to last a lifetime.
The reality is much less appealing. By the time March rolls around, my teleworking roommate and I debate the benefits of leaving the house any time before April. Which will it be: cabin fever or mystery puddles of melted slush, sudden blizzards, and a freezing rain that chills to the bone?
If you are starting to worry that you will never be warm again, here are 5 ideas to take advantage of the last days of winter and help you appreciate the waning days of hygge… Norwegian style.
- Visit a museum. Forget Sunday brunch. In Oslo, Norwegians have a tradition to enjoy their museums during the brief daylight hours. During my trip, it seemed like every man, woman, and child flocked to the local museums. (When I was there, I enjoyed this one.) Despite being such a sparsely populated country, their global awareness runs deep and knowledge of cultural history is vast. Take a page from their book, and maybe consider booking an art tour to open up even broader historic horizons.
- Host a dinner party. Feel like hibernating? Those who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may find the winter a lonely, difficult season. But Norwegians living where the sun does not rise do not have a higher rate of depression, possibly due to their tight-knit communities. Leverage the winter to cultivate friendships on your own terms. No more braving the elements to stuff into a crowded, noisy bar. Instead, consider inviting a small group of friends over to your apartment or flat. Cook a simple meal and reconnect. Who knows where the conversation will lead? (If you want to make it a fun girls’ night, I recommend this bubbly.)
- Soak in a sauna. The winter can take a toll on your immune system. Honor your body and boost your health with a session in a sauna and high quality foods. Remember that food is fuel, so eat nutrient dense foods that keep you fortified. When I was in Norway, I was impressed by the quality of vegetables in their local markets. When possible, eat whole foods.
- Read a classic. Ever feel sluggish during the darker months? Boost your energy by activating your mind. Check off your reading list. Nothing says hygge like reading an old leather-bound classic; Dickens, Twain, Brontë, and Austin are waiting.
- Embrace the chill. There is a reason Norwegians did so well in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics (Those 39 shiny medals are still blinding us). They do not let sub-freezing temperatures hold them back from enjoying a full life. In fact, according to this researcher, “winter is something to be enjoyed, not endured.” Nothing gets the heart pumping like a brisk hike, ski, ice skating or snowshoe through nature. Bundle up and try out a winter sport. Either way, get your body moving. I tried out Classpass. Soon enough, the white wonderland will be gone… and so will your cold weather blahs.