With the arrival of Blue Monday in this particular dismal start to the year, with increasing political tensions and rising Covid cases, the winter nights certainly seem darker, longer and lonelier. However, with this article, I hope to suggest some expert Scanidanavian winter advice, which has a reassuring success rate as Scandinavian countries top the list of happiest countries in the world, in a study by Condé Naste Traveller. This advice has been curated with inspiration from Swedish and Danish traditions dating back to the 18th Century, emphasising the importance of self-care. These Scandinavian traditions can help us focus on the importance of wellbeing, which should be the primary focus of our winter survival kits this year.
If you are locked down alone in Edinburgh, with your flatmates, or even at your family home, these rituals might help offer some relief to encourage gratitude, stillness and peace on these particularly dark winter nights.
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah)
A Danish tradition first introduced in the 18th century to emphasise the importance of well-being and self-care; something of great importance in Scandinavian culture, especially in the winter months. It is central within the Danish language to acknowledge a moment of comfort and gratitude which can be crucial to surviving the sometimes overwhelmingly long winter nights.
Mys (pronounced mees):
Hygge has since been integrated into Swedish culture with the winter ritual of mys, which directly translates as “coziness” and emphasises the importance of creating a comforting, familiar environment – two adjectives that seem rather foreign in Covid life. To help inspire these intimate spaces, recommendations for incorporating mys into your lifestyle include embracing stillness surrounded by all of your favourite home comforts: blankets, candles, warm lighting and your favourite movies and food.
A term which might be the answer to surviving a third lockdown, winter, and maybe even the rest of 2021 is an extension of mys, known as ‘fredagsmys’, which translates to ‘cosy Fridays’. This ritual is key to surviving winter nights in Sweden. The concept is exactly as it sounds: celebrating the end of the week with a cosy night filled with your favourite people, movies, treats and comfiest clothes – except, it is an established tradition that encompasses and encourages the act of self-care.
The Scandinavian focus on wellbeing also extends past fredagsmys, focusing on the importance of embracing outdoor winter life, known as friluftsliv. I know we don’t need any more lockdown walks, but the Swedish mantra ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes’, promotes the importance of fresh air, even on the coldest of days. Crisp, winter mornings offer the perfect environment to embrace friluftsliv to boost your mood and strengthen your heart – something I know we all need right now.
The emphasis on ‘slowing down’ and creating healthy habits has become increasingly crucial for university students, especially as we battle the varying lockdown and travel restrictions, preventing us from experiencing normal life. I believe there is huge benefit in having words and traditions integrated into language and culture that encourage the practice of self-care, as although it shouldn’t need validating, it offers a subconscious reassurance of the importance of your mental health.
I encourage you to adopt some Scandi traditions and use them to prioritise your self-care: Indulge in fika (‘me’ time), bake some kanelbulle (cinnamon buns, for a banana bread alternative) and personalise your version of mys to hopefully help to relieve some winter-induced, Covid-induced, and new-semester-induced anxieties.
image: Sandra Pavuna via Pixabay