Scientists across the world are racing to develop vaccines and therapeutics for Covid, but despite their heroic efforts, just about every expert out there is warning it's going to be a long, dark winter in the U.S.
With cases spiking, many of the usual ways we use to pick ourselves up from seasonal gloom won't be available. Forget getting a distracting drink with friends, this year most of us are going to be housebound, isolated, and worried about a raging pandemic.
How can you survive the Covid winter to come? One way might be to talk to a Scandinavian.
Is it possible to actually look forward to winter?
Despite the darkness in parts of Norway, Sweden, and neighboring countries during the winter months, Scandinavians experience much lower rates of seasonal depression than people from other nations. I've written about this phenomenon before, but a recent New York Times article by a psychologist who studies how people cope with Arctic living reminded me that this Northern wisdom might be more necessary than ever this year.
In the article, Kari Leibowitz explains that the difference between mopey Americans and cheery Scandinavians isn't genetics--it's outlook. (Though I'm betting the strong social safety net helps the local mood as well.)
Scandinavians "tend to have a 'positive wintertime mind-set,'" she writes. "People there see the winter as a special time of year full of opportunities for enjoyment and fulfillment, rather than a limiting time of year to dread. In fact, my research found that this positive wintertime mind-set was associated with well-being, including greater life satisfaction and more positive emotions."
It's not impossible for Americans to borrow this mindset. Instead of focusing on endless shoveling and freezing toes, try to anticipate "the cold-weather traditions you may already have positive associations with, like tailgate parties, bonfires or ice skating," she advises.
Also, invest in the right gear. As the Norwegians say, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
"Put enough clothes on so that you won't become wet or freeze, and go out! Go to the nearest spot around you that you like: in a park, at the harbor, along a river through the city, in the woods, on a rooftop where you get a good view. Take it in! Feel the temperature, the wind, the air. Smell! See!" enthuses Ida Solhaug, a psychologist at the University of Tromso, located above the Arctic circle.
It's not only the Norwegians Leibowitz cites. She also recommends the much chattered about Danish concept of hygge, or coziness. This is the feeling of comfort you get curled up under a warm duvet by a fireplace in winter. It's candlelight on dim days, warm mugs of tea, and wool socks. Try to bring hygge into your life and focus on the special pleasures only winter brings, she recommends.
For those of you who are rolling your eyes
All of which sounds like a scene from a particular kind of fall furniture catalog. And to those of you who, like me, grew up in miserably cold places (shout out to upstate New York), about as realistic.
If you're rolling your eyes that hot cocoa and scented candles could ever compensate for scraping ice off your windshield in 20-below temperatures, then be aware there are other options on offer to complement your best attempts at Scandinavian cheer.
Forge recently rounded up a helpful selection of tips from psychologists for getting through the this winter, including:
Jump-start new routines. It's hard to start depression-busting behaviors like regular exercise and healthy sleep patterns once you're already sinking into sadness, so start establishing them now.
Build your support system. Yes, this winter social support is likely to be mostly digital but it's important nonetheless. Choose who you'll lean on this winter and start building up those relationships.
Practice arguing your thoughts. Just because an idea keeps circling around your head doesn't make it true. Rehearse talking back to negative thoughts and you'll find it easier to do come February.
Think this kind of advice might come in handy this winter? Then check out the complete, useful article here.