For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreaded the winter months. Getting up early while it was still pitch black and freezing outside, being forced to leave my warm bed and brave the cold outside in order to get to class or work.
Leaving school or work a couple of hours later, and finding it was already pitch black again. Going home, with barely enough energy to stay awake till bedtime, falling asleep and doing it all over again for the next four months. That used to be the sad recipe for my dreaded winter.
Until I realized that unless I chose to relocate to a warmer location, I’d be stuck with Danish winters. And if you can’t beat them, join them. While I still get caught out by winter depression, I try my best to make the most of it. And I am ready to share my tips!
This is the formula not just for surviving Danish winters, but for even enjoying them. If you’ve experienced Denmark during winter before, you know that you’re in for a consecutive row of cold, grey dark months. Brace yourself, because it’s coming. This is your ultimate guide on how to survive the winter, and hopefully enjoy it, as well.
Hygge is the way
I read this very interesting article on how people living in near-polar climates avoid seasonal depression. In a nutshell, the secret is: “People view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured”.
So the quick fix is to enjoy winter instead of dreading it and enduring it once it arrives. This is where the famous hygge comes in, something Danes are experts at.
Instead of hating winter’s guts, shifting your mindset to actually make the best of winter will work wonders. Instead of longing for long, light summer nights, enjoy the dark, hyggelige winter nights that were made for lounging at home with a Netflix marathon, a good book, lit candles and by your side.
Make up a hygge winter bucket list
Make a bucket list of hygge winter activities that will make winter enjoyable. It could be a day of crafting Christmas decorations with friends. Go for a long walk somewhere beautiful. Test out a new recipe, preferably something warm and hearty. Go ice skating. Ultimately, a hygge bucket list of fun winter activities will help shift your mindset from hating winter to enjoying winter.
Self-care all the way
On a more serious note, I am self-aware enough to know that sadly I am prone to being struck by seasonal affective disorder. The darkness hits me like a ton of bricks, and I find the energy and motivation leaving my body as winter arrives.
When indoor winter hygge might not cut it, take drastic measures and roll out the heavy artillery. Taking care of yourself is key. Make sure you eat well and healthily, get enough vitamins, and get enough sleep (actually, we need an hour of extra sleep during the dark winter months). Hit the gym, as working out is the best mood booster, see people who bring you energy, and do things that make you happy – these are all vital for ensuring you endure, and hopefully enjoy, winter.
While staying at home, cuddling up on the couch might constitute hygge, that can be done all day every day throughout the long Danish winter. Before COVID, I’d have said that the ultimate goal would be to skip the Danish winter for a few weeks and swap it out with a beach somewhere in Asia. Not this year.
Instead, go exploring in your backyard. As we can’t travel, traveling must come to us. Visit that exciting new restaurant – I can recommend Hidden Dimsum if you’re looking for authentic Chinese food or the new Hija de Sanchez in Nordhavn if you’re longing for Mexican street food – and the chance to explore a new neighborhood.
Putting on your explorer glasses and warmest outfit and trying to find something new, whether it’s a restaurant, a new neighborhood or a new experience, will definitely boost your winter spirits.
The good news is that winter never lasts forever. I try to remind myself that without winter, we wouldn’t long for and love the Danish summer as much as we do. It’s all about contrasts. Are you ready to ditch your winter blues and make the most of winter? I know that I am (or, at least I’m well prepared and trying my very best!)