*Reproduced with kind permission of Expert Wealth Management*
Named the happiest country in the world for six consecutive years, Finland knows how to keep its population satisfied. But how do they score noticeably higher than the runners-up on the World Happiness Report 2023?
The secret is refusing to let the bleak winter weather bring them down. Even though the temperatures are near freezing from November to March and the days are short – with less than six hours of sun on winter solstices – the Finns don’t let the winter months stop them.
Read on to discover the secrets to improving your happiness, and how you can incorporate Finnish winter survival tips into your own life.
Schedule time with friends and family
No one wants to spend the long winter months alone. The dark days and unpleasant weather can leave you locked inside your home, creating an overwhelming sense of loneliness.
Planning fun activities with your friends and family gives you a reason to get in touch with each other initially, and then something to look forward to. Building excitement can ward off loneliness and remind you of your loved ones. Many Finns invest in a physical calendar to boost their anticipation for the next event in their schedule (love this idea!).
You should try to book a mix of activities with a variety of people. Schedule regular meetings with your friends over coffee or dinner, as well as going out to curb the effects of cabin fever. Simple shopping trips and special holidays are both brilliant ways to make your winter happier.
It’s important to keep up with your social calendar in January and February as well. Many people visit their friends and family in the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s Day but struggle with loneliness in the months after when the winter weather often worsens.
Combat the effects of Sad
Seasonal affective disorder (Sad) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Symptoms include:
- A persistent low mood
- A loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities
- Feeling lethargic and struggling to get out of bed in the morning.
Exposure to light is one of the key factors affecting the symptoms of Sad. If the weather is too bad to brave or if your job takes up most of the sunny hours, you should consider investing in a light therapy lamp.
These clever devices mimic natural daylight and trick your brain, giving you the benefits of really going outside. You could find that your sleep cycle improves, meaning that you wake up feeling well-rested and that your Sad symptoms ease.
Light therapy is most effective when done for 20 to 30 minutes within an hour of waking up. So, flick the light on while you’re enjoying your breakfast in the morning and watch it transform your mood.
Carry on exercising
Fresh air and spending time in nature are both well-documented ways to improve your mental health. A short walk every day can do wonders for your health, even if you’re battling the British weather – just remember it’s not as cold as it is in Finland!
Making the most of sunlight even when the days are short can help regulate your circadian rhythms, improving your quality of sleep and reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Wrap up warm and treat yourself to a flask of tea or hot chocolate to enjoy on your walks.
The terrible weather – whether that be snow in Finland or torrential rain in the UK – can often put a dent in your exercise plans. But that doesn’t mean you should quit your favourite sports during winter.
Lots of people in Finland switch to winter sports during the colder months, opting to take part in activities like skiing, ice hockey, or skating. Although we don’t get enough snow to make these common sports at home, you can visit your nearest ice rink if you want to try a new, wintery sport.
If you’d prefer to stick to the sports you know, you can continue your favourite workouts inside. Many sports centres run activity sessions for sports like tennis, swimming, and basketball, and you can move exercises such as running, rowing, and cycling into a gym (or just invest in some good, waterproof outdoor kit!).
Slow down during winter
Embracing winter as a slower time of year can do wonders for your happiness.
The Nordic word hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) loosely translates as “cosy way of life”. This doesn’t just refer to the warm slippers, thick dressing gowns, and piles of blankets you’ll need to keep the cold at bay. Recognising that winter brings a more relaxed pace, and enjoying the pause in your busy schedule, can help you let go of the stress of the year.
Surviving winter in Finland used to be a battle rather than an expectation. Years of toughing out freezing weather and short days are now summed up in the Finnish word sisu, a trait considered part of the national character.
It roughly translates to “determination in the face of hardships” and refers to the Finns standing up to the adversity of the nation’s long winters. An important factor in surviving the harder months is persistence through tough times without complaining about something out of their control.
Consider the stresses in your own life. If you have control over some of your problems, now is the time to make improvements, no matter how difficult that journey may be. But if your issues are out of your hands – for example, the weather – then do your best to let it go and focus instead on the things that bring you joy.