The days have been cold and blustery here in Missouri, the kind that make me think of my Norweigan ancestors and their love of winter and all of its cold darkness. Scandinavians live and thrive through their particularly cold, bleak winters. Some regions see barely a glimmer of sun through the season. Yet strangely, instead of suffering from high rates of depression and cabin fever, these countries have some of the highest happiness rates on the planet.
The Danish word "hygge" , pronounced "hooga", basically translates to our idea of "cozy". Yet it doesn't just mean curling up with tea and a blanket. Rather, it is more of an internal "coziness" they are speaking of. A way to become more intimate with themselves and others as they gather by the warmth of fires, tell stories, share about themselves, clink glasses and become more introspective. This is a sort of embracing of the bitter cold, the low light, the short days. It is a submission to mother nature's wildness and a return to the warmth of shelter, friends, families, and books.
In Iceland, there are more books published, more books read, and more writers per capita than anywhere on earth. One in 10 on that Nordic island will publish a book. Christmas eve is spent reading a book. A custom called "Jolabokaflod", or the "Christmas book flood" .
Some of the northernmost places in Norway don't see the sun rise between November and January, yet they have the lowest depression rates. Their worlds become transformed into all of the beauty of the season. Not something to be endured, but something to absolutely love and treasure. I always wondered why my fathers family settled in North Dakota after coming from Norway. Why not try Florida? When I learned about "hygge", I understood. They embrace the bleakness and cold, because the opposite of those things can be found inside our homes, around a fireplace and in our souls if we take the opportunity to nurture them as the harshness around us sets in. What awesome power lies in our perceptions of things.
Taking hold of the power of how we see things, and living in tune with the seasons looks like healing for the soul. What two basic lessons we have forgotten in our high tech, fast paced - Halloween/Christmas/Valentines day/Easter - consumer society. Getting off the screens, finding more time for inner growth and connection could be transformative in our Prozac- ridden society. And on an even deeper level, embracing what we have in our lives instead of complaining about it or trying to survive it seems to truly open up the floodgates to more contentment, creativity, and growth.
As someone who has done a fair share of complaining when the temps hit below zero, I'm going to try to get more in touch with my "Viking" roots and enjoy this time in the glow of , contemplation, creativity, friends and family. I hope you will too.