Keeping a positive mindset throughout the winter months can be difficult, however there’s a lot we can learn from our European neighbours to help boost our mental wellbeing.(1) Despite having darker and colder winters, many northern European country residents experience positive emotions, life satisfaction and positive wellbeing during this time; something they describe as hygge.
Pronounced hoo-ga, it’s the Danish word for a mood of contentment and wellbeing. Here AXA Health Psychological Coach, Nicola Baxter shares her top tips for getting a hygge mindset and feeling good this winter.
What is hygge?
The word itself can be defined in different ways, but essentially it describes a feeling of love, safety and contentment. In the UK, the winter months are not received as kindly by some as the longer, warmer days of summer and spring. In short, many of us have a negative mindset around winter. However, Meik Wiking, author of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’, suggests that in Danish culture the darkest and coldest nights give the best feelings of hygge, and the Danes feel excited for the winter months.(2)
Health Psychologist Kari Leibowitz completed a study to understand why Scandinavian countries are famed for being some of the happiest in the world, reporting the best sense of wellbeing for their inhabitants. Leibowitz created a ‘Winter Mindset Scale’ to measure wellbeing in winter, asking participants whether they agreed with statements such as:
- I love the cosiness of the winter months
- Winter brings many wonderful seasonal changes
- Winter is boring
- Winter is a limiting time of year.
The participants of the study lived in areas in Norway and the Arctic Islands, where daily sunlight was minimal, and the temperatures were often subzero Celsius! The results suggested that there was a high rate of winter wellbeing within the test group, concluding that mindset had been a largely overlooked factor in how people respond to winter.(3)