What Norway Can Teach the World About Long Winter Lockdowns

Recent research suggests Norwegians are simply better at beating winter than everybody else

What Norway Can Teach the World About Long Winter Lockdowns
Michael Fousert/Unsplash

According to recent research from health psychologist Kari Leibowitz, Norwegians may be better equipped for their trademark long winters thanks to the simple power of positive thinking.

Leibowitz set up shop in Tromsø, one of the largest towns above the Arctic Circle in the world, where due to the polar night — and surrounding mountains — residents don’t see the sun from November 21 to January 21 each year. She designed a survey called the “wintertime mindset scale,” which asked locals a series of questions about the darkest days of the year, with special emphasis on how the winter affected their mindset.

Those who strongly agreed with positive statements about the winter (“There are many things to enjoy about the winter,” “Winter brings many wonderful seasonal changes,” etc.) were also most likely to report experiencing successful winters and score highest on figures for mental health and life satisfaction. What’s more: that sensibility changed accordingly as Leibowitz brought her survey north or south. Norwegians up in Svalbard (where there are more polar bears the people) were more likely to approach the winter with excitement than those in Tromsø, who approached the winter with more excitement than those in Oslo, and so on.

Leibowitz’s research represents a highly specific application of wellbeing tenets like visualization, “active coping,” and mental framing. Norwegians, of course, suffer from anxiety and cold like every other human being. But they’ve mastered the art of finding the bright spots in a literally dark time; that means skiing, hiking, embracing snowfall, and koselig (Norway’s take on the Danish hygge).

As the rest of the world marches towards winter this year, and a probable second lockdown, it’s important for us to keep expectations low, and find excitement where possible. The people of Tromsø are a stone’s throw from Santa’s workshop, yet report fewer cases of seasonal affective disorder than much sunnier places. We’d be wise to adopt their principles for what could be the longest winter in recent memory.


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