Does A Norwegian City Hold The Answer To The Winter Blues?

Does A Norwegian City Hold The Answer To The Winter Blues? Tromsø’s snowy town center. Author provided

Inundated with headlines of looming “snowpocalypses,” most will begrudgingly grit out the winter months, grinding through dreary doldrums of January and February and counting down the days until spring. Some even succumb to seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that tends to occur at higher rates in colder regions and is hypothesized to be related to the lack of daylight in those regions.

But what about people who live in the coldest parts of the world, where the winters are longest and the summers fleeting? Do they similarly dread the winter? Or could they offer clues about how to avoid the wintertime blues?

In August 2014 I moved to Tromsø, Norway, an island of 70,000 people located over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Tromsø’s location is so extreme that they experience two months of “polar night” each year – when the sun does not rise above the horizon.

Yet despite the extreme winter conditions, studies have shown that residents of Tromsø do not experience as much seasonal depression and wintertime mental distress as you might expect.

To try to figure out why, I spent 10 months studying how people in Tromsø cope with – and even thrive during – the long, dark winters.

My research led me to a surprising conclusion: perhaps the psychological concept of mindset is the reason for their winter well-being.

After arriving in Tromsø, I was terrified at the thought of the impending winter. Months of friends and family telling me how they could “never move some place so cold and dark” because the winter makes them “so depressed” or “so tired” had me bracing for the worst-case scenario.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that most residents of Tromsø weren’t viewing the upcoming winter with a sense of doom. In fact, to many locals, the original question I’d planned to ask – “Why aren’t people in Tromsø more depressed during the winter?” – didn’t make sense. Most people I spoke to in Tromsø were actually looking forward to the winter. They spoke enthusiastically about the ski season. They loved the opportunities for coziness provided by the winter months.

As I experienced firsthand Tromsø residents' unique relationship to winter, a serendipitous conversation with Alia Crum, assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, inspired me to consider mindset as a factor that might influence Tromsø residents' sunny perspective of the sunless winter. Crum defines mindsets as the “lenses through which information is perceived, organized and interpreted.” Mindsets serve as an overarching framework for our everyday experiences – and they can profoundly influence how we react in a variety of situations.

Crum’s work has shown that mindsets significantly influence both our physical and mental health in areas as diverse as exercise, stress and diet. For example, according to Crum’s research, individuals can hold the mindset that stress is either debilitating (bad for your health and performance) or enhancing (motivating and performance-boosting). The truth is that stress is both; it can cause athletes to crumble under pressure and lead CEOs to have heart attacks, but it can also sharpen focus and critical thinking, giving athletes, CEOs and the rest of us the attention and adrenaline to succeed in high-pressure situations. According to Crum’s work, instead of the mere presence of stress, it is our mindset about stress – whether or not we perceive it as a help or a hindrance – that contributes most to health, performance and psychological outcomes.


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

After speaking with Professor Crum, I began to wonder: could it be that residents of Tromsø possess a positive wintertime mindset, which allows them to not only persevere but also thrive during the polar night?

Along with my advisor at the University of Tromsø, Joar Vittersø, I developed a preliminary “Wintertime Mindset Scale” to measure how residents of Tromsø view the winter. The Wintertime Mindset Scale asked our survey participants to agree or disagree with items such as “There are many things to enjoy about the winter,” and “I find the winter months dark and depressing.”

The results of our study in Norway found that having a positive wintertime mindset was associated with greater life satisfaction, willingness to pursue the challenges that lead to personal growth, and positive emotions.

This preliminary study has raised many new questions about the role mindset might play in seasonal wellness. Research indicates that 6% of the US population suffers from seasonal affective disorder, a form of major depression with a recurring seasonal pattern, which most often occurs during the winter months. Another 14% suffer from a lesser pattern of seasonal mood changes known as the “winter blues.”

These statistics are certainly troubling and raise questions about preventing and curing winter depression. But what about the other 80% of the US population? Even excluding residents of sunny regions like Florida and California, the vast majority of Americans who live through the winter every year don’t get seasonal depression.

Our pilot data suggest that the concept of wintertime mindset could add a positive component to the discussion of seasonal well-being, and that mindset may be an important addition to the theoretical and practical discussion of seasonal wellness. However, more research is needed to both refine the Wintertime Mindset Scale and further validate these initial findings.

Back on the US East Coast for the holidays, the chill in the air and the early nightfall already had some of my friends and family grumbling. But I was able to convince at least some of them to find what they love about winter and lean into it; looking at winter as an opportunity rather than a burden can help people enjoy all that the season has to offer.

I pointed out that Norwegians embrace the idea of koselig, or “coziness” – that making the conscious effort to light candles and fires, drink warm beverages and snuggle under blankets can be enjoyable and relaxing.

And taking the time to bundle up and get outside even in the worst weather can help you feel like winter isn’t limiting your opportunities for recreation. Norwegians have a saying that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” which typifies their ingrained belief that being active is part of a happy life – and, especially, a happy winter.

About The AuthorThe Conversation

leibowitz kariKari Leibowitz, PhD candidate in Psychology, Stanford University. She is interested in understanding how best to promote mindsets that increase psychosocial well-being, with a particular emphasis on understanding compassionate mindsets in various populations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Related Books:

at

You May Also Like

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeeliwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptroruesswsvthtrukurvi

INNERSELF VOICES

Lunar eclipse, May 12, 2022
Astrological Overview and Horoscope: May 23 - 29, 2022
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
05 21 rewilding the imagination in dangerous times 5362430 1920
Rewilding the Imagination in Dangerous Times
by Natureza Gabriel Kram
In a world that often seems intent on destroying itself, I find myself curating beauty -- the kind…
group of multi-racial individuals standing for a group photo
Seven Ways You Can Show Respect to Your Diverse Team (Video)
by Kelly McDonald
Respect is profoundly meaningful, but costs nothing to give. Here are ways you can demonstrate (and…
elephant walking in front of a setting sun
Astrological Overview and Horoscope: May 16 - 22, 2022
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
photo of Leo Buscaglia from cover of his book: Living, Loving and Learning
How to Change Someone's Life in a Few Seconds
by Joyce Vissell
My life was changed dramatically when someone took that second to point out my beauty.
a composite photograph of a total lunar eclipse
Astrological Overview and Horoscope: May 9 - 15, 2022
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
05 08 developing compassionate thinking 2593344 completed
Developing Compassionate Thinking Towards Self and Others
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com
When people speak of compassion, they mostly are referring to having compassion for others... for…
a man writing a letter
Writing the Truth and Allowing the Emotions to Flow
by Barbara Berger
Writing things down is a good way to practice truth telling.
Have We Been Living An April's Fool Since Childhood?
Have We Been Living A Lie Since Childhood?
by Marie T. Russell
Everyday is April Fools' Day...it doesn't only occur on April 1st. Many of us are living daily the…
2018 bleeding heart flower
Horoscope Week: October 15 to 21, 2018
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
Qigong: Energy Medicine and Antidote to Stresses
Qigong: Energy Medicine and Antidote to Stresses
by Nikki Gresham-Record
Qigong has helped me understand and connect with myself as an energy being. Different forms of…

MOST READ

rebuilding environment 4 14
How Native Birds Are Returning To New Zealand’s Restored Urban Forests
by Elizabeth Elliot Noe, Lincoln University et al
Urbanisation, and the destruction of habitat it entails, is a major threat to native bird…
The Story Of Suffering And Death Behind Ireland’s Abortion Ban And Subsequent Legalization
The Story Of Suffering And Death Behind Ireland’s Abortion Ban And Subsequent Legalization
by Gretchen E. Ely, University of Tennessee
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the…
how much sleep you need 4 7
How Much Sleep You Really Need
by Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, University of Cambridge, et al
Most of us struggle to think well after a poor night’s sleep – feeling foggy and failing to perform…
benefits of lemmon water 4 14
Will Lemon Water Detox Or Energize You?
by Evangeline Mantzioris, University of South Australia
If you believe anecdotes online, drinking lukewarm water with a splash of lemon juice is…
trusting societies are happy 4 14
Why Trusting Societies Are Overall Happier
by enjamin Radcliff, University of Notre Dame
Human beings are social animals. This means, almost as a matter of logical necessity, that humans’…
learning to pay attention 4 14
These Strategies And Life Hacks Can Help Anyone With Attention Problems
by Rob Rosenthal, University of Colorado
Because of the steady stream of negative feedback people receive about their productivity,…
group of multi-racial individuals standing for a group photo
Seven Ways You Can Show Respect to Your Diverse Team (Video)
by Kelly McDonald
Respect is profoundly meaningful, but costs nothing to give. Here are ways you can demonstrate (and…
economy 4 14
5 Things That Economists Know, But Sound Wrong To Most Other People
by Renaud Foucart, Lancaster University
A curious thing about our profession is that when we academic economists largely agree with each…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.