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How to enjoy winter
This is the sixth year I’ve been a mother in the dead of winter — and the first year that I am not going to let it ruin me.
As I reflect on my childhood, I don’t remember disliking winter, but rather enjoying each season as it came and went. Experiences and traditions, the warmth of the indoors, cookies baking, hearty, filling breakfasts, bundling up for a long day of outdoor adventures in the security of my own back yard.
I don’t remember being cold. I don’t remember being uncomfortable. And I especially don’t remember feeling hopeless until the return of warmer days.
I remember the glare of the January sun and the cool spray of snow on my face while sledding down our favorite hills. I remember the elation of rolling the largest snowball I could push. I remember warm cuddles with loved ones.
Fast forward 30 years, and winter — especially with children — has become a personal challenge. Sometimes the mere time it takes to get children bundled and ready for the elements takes longer than they’re actually willing to be in the outdoors.
Illnesses tend to blossom this time of year, too, and — coupled with harsh temperatures — can increase isolation.
As my twin sons entered kindergarten last past fall, it hit me that time is slipping by so fast, I don’t want to wish away an entire season. I want to enjoy and hold on to each moment I have with them. Soon they’ll be teenagers.
My strong Norwegian heritage made me wonder: What do Norwegians do? Norway’s climate is much like ours. Being in a northernmost region, Norway’s winter days are dark, too. And yet, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report, the country boasts the happiest people in the world.
So I spent some time searching online to discover how the Norwegians and others find joy when the dark and cold take over the winter months. Here are my top takeaways:
Buy the right gear
If you’ve ever had a toddler, you know getting outside isn’t as easy as it sounds. Bundling up a little kid can leave you breaking a sweat before you even don your own coat.
But here’s the thing: What you wear really matters.
Finding the right clothes — that go on with ease and keep you warm — is essential, not just for the kids, but for you, too.
There’s a saying from our wise Nordic friends: There’s no bad weather — only bad clothing.
During my first few years staying at home with my kids, I remember spending a lot of time finding the perfect attire for my little ones, all the while completely forgetting about myself. When we would finally make it outside, I’d cringe while drudging through the deep snow to make a snowman, joining in sledding adventures or simply standing in the elements to watch my children play.
By not taking part fully in these activities, I essentially wasn’t taking part in all the things I reminisced about bringing me joy when I was a child.
It took me three years to purchase my own extra-warm, tall winter boots: They were a success! My lower half was no longer cold. This year, I forced myself to put my budget-conscious ways aside and invest in warm clothes that work for the rest of my body.
Once you get outside, move your body. Whether its playing with your kids in the snow or a quick walk on your lunch break, the key is to move. Fresh air, vitamin D and exercise will always serve your mind and body well — once you actually get out there.
Also, keep in mind, winter in Minnesota doesn’t end with the spring solstice in March (at least not usually).
Snow and hard freezes can come in April (and May), which means you may as well resolve to get yourself outside year round, rather than waiting for “winter” to pass.
If you’re able to follow my previous suggestion, my next tip will complement it perfectly. Get cozy. Scandinavian winter culture is all about some form of cozy.
In Danish, it’s hygge. In Norwegian it’s koselig. Swedes say mysigt.
Call it hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, sipped while you sit under a ridiculously soft blanket, all just after you come inside from the cold. (Or, if you have toddlers, sip hot chocolate at the table first. THEN jump into a pile of snuggly blankets.)
Hygge is about enjoying the pleasures of “indoor life,” and creating a sense of intimacy, togetherness and inner warmth (and maybe not starring at digital devices).
Scandinavians make the activity of getting cozy into an Olympic sport by coming up with special winter-only celebratory games, clothes, decor and more to create that feeling one can really only enjoy when it’s cold and dark outside.
With the warm light of candles and hearth fires, special seasonal meals and drinks, fuzzy slippers and sweaters — and an emphasis on simplicity — Danes reportedly actually look forward to their long cold winters. We can, too!
This last tip is my own — and something that I’ve noticed I’ve lost in myself in this age of instant gratification: Wait.
The idea of waiting for anything really is a thing of the past. We no longer wait for our favorite show to appear each week, but rather binge watch the latest recommendation on our favorite streaming device.
If we wish to buy something, we can simply turn on the computer or phone and order it the moment it crosses our mind (and maybe have it delivered in less than two hours with Prime Now).
Reserving joy is putting something you enjoy doing aside and saving it. Perhaps you save a hobby or a project you’ve been wanting to do, a stack of books you would like to read or some new recipes to try.
Pick something that brings you joy and — gasp — reserve it. Save it for the winter months.
I’ll see you in the spring.
Amy Beseth is a mother of three and the owner of Pride & Joy Doula Services, serving St. Paul, Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs. Learn more at prideandjoydoula.com.
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