As people brace themselves for a long winter of cold weather, short days and COVID-19 lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, they might find inspiration from Norwegians about how to handle the dark months ahead, according to Stanford scholar Kari Leibowitz.
Leibowitz has studied how Norwegians cope with winter and “polar nights,” the period beginning on Nov. 21 when the sun sets in Norway and doesn’t rise again for another two months. She spent a year at the University of Tromsø, located 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, to better understand how people survive – and actually, thrive – in such extreme and unusual conditions. She found that people with a positive wintertime mindset – which encompasses their thoughts, beliefs and attitudes toward the season – is positively associated with their wellbeing, including life satisfaction and personal growth.
Here, Leibowitz discusses some of her findings – data from her survey of 238 Norwegians recently published in the International Journal of Wellbeing – and how their approach to winter and the indoors might offer comfort during these challenging times.
Study lead, Kari Leibowitz, is a 2015 Stanford Graduate Fellow and a 2018 Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow.