Frilufsliv – Scandinavian Wisdom for Winter Blues
Let’s face it, January is grim for most of us. The festivities are over, maybe we have returned to the daily commute and our bank balance is a touch worse for wear, made all the harsher by the recession this year. We wake up in the dark and return in the dark and sometimes the grey clouds barely seem to rise above the trees. To make matters worse it is often cold, damp and dreary outdoors. It’s no wonder then that so many of us in Scotland suffer from winter blues or even Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I have lived with low mood in winter all my life, well as far back as my teenage years anyway. Some years this has tipped into real depression which has lasted well into spring and other years it has been better. Like all mental illness it is complex but I suspect most of us are affected in some way in the winter. Naturally we have less energy and resilience at this time of year but our society expects us to carry on as normal with all the usual commitments and stresses. Inevitably this can take its toll. Over the years I have found many ways to take care of my mental health through the winter and have happily found more acceptance of it, but I can’t be complacent as I can never really tell how it will go until it’s over.
What helps me? Reducing stress, not taking on as much as I would in spring or summer. Resting more, yoga nidra (a type of guided relaxation) is my rest of choice. Spending as much times as I can outdoors, especially when the sun is out. Sitting in front of a daylight lamp for about 20-30mins a day. Giving into the atmosphere of winter, reading by the fire wrapped up in a blanket for example. Savouring simple joys, the beauty of a winter’s sunset or a warm cup of coffee in my hands. Feeling isolated and alone is a real risk with low mood so I make a special effort to meet up with friends, especially when I feel this way. Being honest and open with my family, reminding them each September is never easy but normally by January we are in a flow. Herbal remedies such as St John’s Wort (not suitable for everyone) have also helped me as well as talking therapies from time to time.
The constant messaging of “New Year New Me” can also make us feel woefully inadequate at an already fragile time. Recently though I came across some simple wisdom from Scandinavia, the Norwegian concept of Frilufsliv. Author Katherine May describes its 3 central tenets as: Live simply. Go outside often. Be kind to the Earth (I include us in that!). To me kindness, taking refuge in simple pleasures and being outside more, sound like the perfect antidote to winter blues. A nice place to rest my mind over the coming weeks. May you be well.
Yoga Teacher, Milnathort
(For some people, symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities. If you are struggling to cope please consider seeing your GP.)
Published in the Kinross Newsletter, Jan 2023