Scandinavian Traditions for a Warmer Winter
Did I suck you in with that title? Please accept my apologies that I can't promise to actually help you feel warmer in the temperature sense of the word (other than layering up). Rather, I'll be sharing ideas for how you can adapt traditional Scandinavian ideas to feel happy, cosy and more relaxed during the winter months. For some reason, the Swedes, Norwegians and Danes are much better than us at adjusting to the colder months. Despite the days becoming shorter and colder the further north you travel, everyone just seems to get along with life without feeling miserable. In fact, visiting Scandinavia during the winter can be a surprisingly pleasant experience - two of my favourite ever trips were to Copenhagen in December and Oslo in February. These countries thrive in the winter, tempting people outdoors with spectacular snow-covered landscapes and helping them feel cosy indoors by lighting candles in every room. But how can you recreate a Scandinavia winter for yourself? Here are seven simple ticks to help you add a Nordic touch to your winter.
Create a cosy nest
I'm going to try not to mention 'that' word - the 'h' word that everyone became sick of last winter. It isn't just an aesthetic though; creating authentically Scandinavian interiors is all about the feeling of a space. During the winter, snug little nooks are created with armchairs, blankets, sheepskins and cushions, perfect for sinking into at the end of a long day with your favourite book and a mug of tea. When you're creating cosy corners like this, don't just consider how it looks; the chair needs to be comfortable, the rugs and throws need to be soft and warm and the lighting has to be perfect. Light candles and turn off harsh overhead lights, play your favourite music and surround yourself with your loved ones to truly embrace the 'h' word.
Open the curtains
A complete contrast to my previous tip, throw your curtains wide open and let the outdoor light bathe the room. Days are short during the winter months in Scandinavia, so when the sun is in the sky it is important to embrace it. If you have to be indoors during the day, try to base yourself in a room with plenty of natural light and resist the temptation to pull the curtains shut before the sun sets. You need your daily dose of vitamin c.
Of course, the perfect option for spending your winter days as a Scandinavian would is to bundle up and head outside for a little friluftsliv. My favourite of all the Nordic words that don't directly translate to English, my previous post can fill you in a little bit more on how the Norwegians relish the outdoors. My top tip would be to spend as much time as possible outdoors during the winter months, whether that means heading into the hills for a walk or huddling around a bonfire at night.
Wrap up warm
So many English people don't dress appropriately in the winter. You aren't going to enjoy the colder weather if you are shivering at the bus stop. Pull on your woolen tights, thick jumpers, practical boots, cosy hats, scarves and gloves, and warm coats every time you step outdoors. Whether you're heading out for a few drinks in the evening or planning a long walk through the woods, bundle up and you'll be able to enjoy being outdoors.
It's all well and good telling yourself that you're going to cut out dairy, sugar and fat and buy a clean-living cookbook, but you're going to feel miserable. It's all about balance, and if you stick to a predominantly healthy diet (lots of fruit, veg and fish) there is no reason why you can't treat yourself every now and then. If you're going to cut anything out of your diet, make it processed food that's high in refined sugar and preservatives. Allow yourself a thick slice of toast in the morning, dripping in honey, or a freshly baked cinnamon bun mid-way through the afternoon. Take a fika break and step away from your work to enjoy fifteen minutes with friends, coffee and cake.
I briefly mentioned this on my first tip, but this is so important that I'll bring it up again. If you want to embrace a Scandinavian way of life, you have to light candles. Whether you're baking in the kitchen, relaxing in the bath or curled up on the sofa, turn off the overhead lights and light candles all around the room. Scented soy candles, tapered beeswax candles placed in holders, tealights in small votives or large church candles inside lanterns; light them all. If you have an open fire or a wood burner, this will also add to the ambiance and help to create a warmer and more relaxing home.
Put life before work
This applies all year round. There's a reason why the Nordic lands are always named the countries with the happiest citizens on the planet with the best work-life balances. The residents of these countries have their priorities right: they put their home lives before their work lives. When it reaches the end of the work day, they get up and leave to return home to their families, very rarely working late into the night. Overtime is rarely heard of and most bosses wouldn't even consider asking their staff to work late. If you can, leave the office on time everyday to walk home and retreat to your cosy nest.
Slow it down
One of the easiest ways to wear yourself out is to do too much without stopping. Work, cooking, hobbies, socialising and travelling can all begin to take a toll if you aren't careful. Do as the Scandinavians do and take a step back, slow things down and allow yourself to truly enjoy your life. Spend time lingering over cooking and eating meals, making more of an experience out of the process to rediscover the joy of eating by baking with a friend or hosting a dinner party. Sit down and read a chapter of a book, enjoy an evening of playing board games with your family or meet a friend to walk your dogs in the park. Don;t take on too much at once, and allow yourself to rediscover the small pleasures in life.