Beat the winter blues Scandi-style

The end of Daylight Saving Time at 2am on Sunday 28th October signals the beginning of shorter days and longer, darker, colder nights which, for many Brits, brings with it the onset of the winter blues.

No stranger to cold, dark winters, Catharina Björkman, Lifestyle Expert at Swedish wood burning stove brand Contura, shares her very own ‘happiness hacks’ to help us beat the blues, Scandi-style.

“There’s no need to despair of the longer, darker nights in winter,” says Catharina. “In Sweden we endure 24 hours of darkness for much of December, so we know a thing or two about tackling the winter blues!

“These tried-and-tested tips will help winter-fearing Brits not only make the most of the season, but also to celebrate all that the winter evenings bring.”

1. Put the kettle on.

A cup of tea fixes all manner of woes, however, did you know that there is scientific evidence to back this up? Tea is full of natural antioxidants and amino acids which relax and calm the body and has also been shown to reduce mental fatigue and improve memory.

Has there ever been a better excuse to put the kettle on?

2. Get your home in order.

Home is where the heart is; it’s your own personal haven away from the chaos of the day-to-day. Make it feel like a sanctuary by keeping it clean, tidy and free of clutter. There are countless studies proving that a clean, healthy home coincides with a healthy state of mind.

Trust us, you’ll be amazed at how much your mood is lifted simply by bringing order to your home.

3. Pursue ultimate höstmys.

‘Höstmys’ is how us Swedes refer to cosiness as the colder, darker months set in and it’s about embracing whatever makes this time of year more bearable for you. So, whether you fancy snuggling up on the sofa and watching back-to-back episodes of your favourite boxset, enjoying glasses of mulled wine with loved ones, layering on the cosy knitwear, or enjoying freshly baked cake and tea, there is no wrong way to embrace höstmys.

4. Get outdoors.

It’s important to spend as much time outdoors as possible, even as the weather gets colder. Not only is the fresh air wonderfully invigorating, it encourages you to exercise in order to warm up!

Spending time outdoors surrounded by nature, whatever the weather, is proven to help you relax and de-stress and can also boost creativity. Add in some light physical exercise and you’ve got a double whammy of benefits to both your mental and physical health.

5. If in doubt, make your own sunshine.

Natural light is vital for effective brain and body function, so it’s no surprise that in the darker winter months we can suffer with lower energy levels, lethargy and feeling less motivated.

Studies have shown that the warming, calming glow of a fire reduces blood pressure and stress levels, providing a quick-fix feel-good factor throughout the winter.

In more serious cases, this lack of exposure to natural light can lead to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), so if you find yourself really suffering, consider creating your own sunshine by investing in a ‘light box’ which will provide both mental and physical benefits, including a healthy dose of vitamin D.

6. Find your happy.

Whether you prefer playing sports, visiting art galleries or learning new skills, making the time to do the things you love is non-negotiable. You could try a new yoga class or gym group, try your hand at flower arranging or a craft such as knitting or painting.

Whatever your interest is, having a hobby makes us feel good and also benefits our mental health.

7. Relax and indulge.

Cooking, baking and sharing food with loved ones is an integral part of Swedish culture, and is especially important throughout the winter months. Both relaxing and indulgent, we love nothing more than bringing friends and family together to enjoy a hearty meal.

Don’t be afraid to ask guests to each bring a dish to take the pressure off!

8. Share the joy.

If you’ve followed all the above, you should find yourself positively beaming with joy, but don’t stop there…!

Being generous is proven to have a hugely positive effect on our happiness and wellbeing. Altruism promotes the release of endorphins which then activates the parts of our brain that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection.

So, no matter how small an act, be kind, make someone’s day and feel the joy.