This years World Happiness Report has five Scandinavian countries in the top ten slots. Sweden being one of them. So this Nordic lot know what their talking about when it comes to reasons to be cheerful. Nearly half of the British public admit to feeling down in the dumps when this time of year comes round, signalled by the dreaded changing of the clocks!
Luckily help is on hand from the lifestyle expert Catharina Bjorkman from top European wood burner makers Contura. They’ve come up with a list of happiness hacks that’ll turn those winter frowns upside down and bring a little more warmth into our lives. She told us why the dark, chilly season that most of us bemoan should be embraced,
“With as little as six hours daylight in Sweden on the shortest day – almost two hours less than in the UK, we Scandinavians have tried and tested ways of beating the blues. Rather than mourning the arrival of winter, we believe that as long as you are prepared, there are many reasons to celebrate it.”
Let there be light
Natural light is vital for effective brain and body function and those exposed to greater quantities have been shown to be more productive, while also sleeping better at night.
Whilst the sun is up, it’s important to get outside as much as possible and embrace the light as well as the oxygen. It’s also a great excuse to add a few cosy new layers to make you feel good about your winter wardrobe.
Make your own glow
With as little as six hours of sunlight per day in the Swedish winter, we often make our own. Natural daylight lamps extend exposure to light during the darker months and are a worthwhile investment, providing mental and physical benefits that can counter Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Studies have also shown that the warming and calming glow of a fire reduces blood pressure and stress levels, providing a quick-fix feel-good factor throughout the winter.
Hygge (or Mysig in Swedish) is about being kind to yourself, spending quality time, creating a sense of warmth and cosiness, enjoying a little indulgences and taking pleasure in the simple things. It’s what gets us Swedes through the winter.
As well as creating a cosy environment, do things that make you happy, such as having dinner with family, enjoying cake, relaxing in a hot bath with candles, or snuggling on the sofa with a good book and a hot drink. Embrace the downtime and disconnect for a calmer, happier you.
Chocolate is not always bad
Stock up on quality chocolate (and hot chocolate for those colder nights). Dark chocolate boosts the production of feel-good endorphins and improves blood flow to the brain. Make sure to treat yourself to purer forms, which offer the greater health benefits.
Good for the soul
Try to do one good deed a day, however small. Showing compassion doesn’t just help others; it also helps you. It reduces stress, distracts from negative feelings and has even been shown to increase life expectancy. Acts of altruism release feel-good chemicals in the brain, meaning you’ll be motivated to do more in future.
It makes scents
Your sense of smell plays a part in your mood. Different smells can evoke memories, create a sense of comfort, security or peace, and can impact our mood tremendously.
Vanilla is good for putting you at ease, lavender induces calm, and citrus scents can perk you up. Popular feel-good winter scents include sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, vanilla, orange and clove.
Declutter, declutter declutter. Believe it or not, a mere 20 minutes a week of cleaning can alleviate symptoms of depression. In 2011, Princeton University found that clutter makes it more difficult to focus on a task.
A clear living space really does make for clear mind, meaning you can get on with more pleasurable pursuits without being caught up with the chaos. Move over spring-clean and come on in autumn clear-out.
Music to your ears
Create a playlist of upbeat tracks to help you feel energised on dark, cold mornings. Music has been shown to elevate your mood, reduce stress and improve cognitive performance.
The brain releases dopamine while listening to music, so creating a soundtrack for the winter months could provide you just the motivation you need to make it through to spring…
In Scandinavia, baking is a standard winter ritual. Mental health and culinary experts are now supporting the idea that baking can work to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression by combining aspects of traditional occupational therapies.
There are a multitude of reasons that baking can make us happier, including the simple fact that it provides a nice treat to enjoy, brings the family together, makes the home cosy and inviting and makes it smell good too.
Tea contains natural components from antioxidants to caffeine. Amino acids within tea can relax and calm the body, while it has also been shown to reduce mental fatigue and improve the memory.
As winter draws in, it is important to remember to take five regularly, and make the most of the warmth and the health benefits that a low calorie, cleansing tea can offer.
A leaf out of our book
Counter the chaos of the daily commute by transporting yourself away from the crowd. Reading reduces stress, fills you with knowledge, expands your vocabulary and improves focus. Get recommendations from friends, family or colleagues and schedule a winter’s worth of reading.
For more info, visit www.contura.eu