It’s a dreary day, it’s 4:00 p.m., and despite large windows all around, it’s getting dark in my house. All my Christmas decorations are put away, and I’m feeling a little…off. This time of year – the cold, the darkness – gets hard for me. Although I consider myself a true Scandinavian Minnesota girl, I honestly don’t care for winter after Christmas. In fact, with every cool breeze and falling leaf last fall, I found myself positively dreading the dark cold months following December. I began counting the weeks to spring as soon as I packed away my sandals. Now, I like to think of myself as a generally optimistic person. I don’t like being down in the dumps about anything. Dreading and then merely surviving winter felt like a waste of precious time, so I began searching for ways to adjust my attitude. And along the way I learned a word that has helped me begin to do just that.
Sounds strange, I know. Now try saying it the right way: Kush-lee. Yes, we English speakers aren’t the only ones who can spell words however the heck we feel like it.
Koselig is a Norwegian word which, while difficult to translate, roughly means “cozy, warm, and inviting.” To Norwegians, almost anything can be koselig – food, clothing, homes, people, activities.
Maybe the best way to understand the meaning of koselig (play along here) is to place both hands over your heart, imagine your favorite person or place, and smile until you feel it in your toes. That is koselig.
To combat the doldrums of winter, I decided to make a list of some of my favorite koselig-friendly ideas and activities that I can refer to when I feel the need to fend off the winter blues over the next eight weeks or so. Just eight weeks! Okay, maybe ten. But we can do this! Who’s ready to get in the koselig spirit?
- Embrace what you love. It turns out that many of the things we enjoy at Christmas can actually be enjoyed all winter. I enjoy that initial first breath of frosty air as I step outside, sparkly snow, a cozy fire, parties with friends and family. A super soft sweater, yoga pants, and a pair of my husband’s tall thick socks. A big pot of soup simmering on the stove. Identify what makes you feel koselig and find a way to keep the cozy coming.
- Keep things warm and bright. We’ve all read those articles that say if we turn our thermostats down 2 degrees we can save sixteen cents this winter. Who are these people, and why do they want us to be sad and cold? I’m all for protecting our planet, but in the winter I’d rather focus on water conservation (daily showers in the winter are so overrated). For those of us who get a little depressed by long strings of cloudy days, and especially for those who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), keeping our homes warm and well-lit is so important for our moods. Dear electric company: Keep my sixteen cents, and I’ll keep the will to get out of bed.
- Stay connected. January and February are often thought of as the loneliest months of the year, when it seems like nothing but wind, snow, and a bottomless pile of snow pants and mismatched mittens stretch before us. Although our calendars have cleared out after the busyness of the holidays, people hold off on getting together with friends because of freezing temperatures or potentially bad driving conditions. The truth is that this is the perfect time to meet friends for dinner or host a game night. Staying connected to the people we love can have a huge impact on our outlook and can help us thrive during the winter months.
- Go outside anyway. Another Norwegian saying I love is, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Bundling up and enjoying some outdoor time can make a big difference in how we feel about ourselves and about winter in general. Exercise and fresh air are powerful mood boosters, and there are still many ways to get out and have fun in the winter. January is a great time to invest in a new winter hobby as winter gear begins to go on sale. Ice skating, cross-country skiing, and building a snowman are all great ways to burn calories and boost endorphins. Or try taking a walk along one of your favorite summer routes. It’s so fun to see how different things look with a blanket of snow!
If you, like me, have a hard time getting through the winter months, I hope you’ll find a way to work koselig into your vocabulary and your life over the next few months. And who knows? Maybe with a little koselig spirit we’ll learn to love winter together.