Norway, Tromso
Credit: © NicolaMargaret / Alamy Stock Photo

Winter travel usually means heading to a sunny climate, burying your toes in the sand, and pretending winter doesn’t exist for a few days. But spending a winter holiday in a freezing cold, snowy climate can be a joy, too—if you get into a Norwegian mindset.

Even though the sun never climbs above the horizon in most parts of Norway from late November to late January, locals don’t view winter as a depressing time of year. In fact, research has shown that residents of Tromsø in northern Norway have much lower rates of wintertime depression than one would expect, given the long winters and lack of sunshine, according to Stanford University PhD candidate Kari Leibowitz. It turns out that in northern Norway, "winter is something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured," wrote Leibowitz in an interview with The Atlantic.

Leibowitz spent almost a year studying at the world’s most northern university, the University of Tromsø, trying to figure out how the residents of northern Norway escape the wintertime blues. Leibowitz realized though that seasonal depression isn’t really a thing in Norway, as it would never occur to a Norwegian to be bothered by the shortened days or wintery weather. Instead they view it as an opportunity to take part in activities they can only do in wintertime like see the Northern lights, ski, or ride on reindeer-pulled sleighs, something Leibowitz chalks up to their positive wintertime outlook.

Norwegians also celebrate the coziness that wintertime can bring as everyone stays indoors. They even have a word for it: koselig. To revel in that koselig feeling, people light fires, use candles, drink coffee and tea, cuddle up under warm blankets, read books, play games, and enjoy the great indoors while waiting for their next outdoor adventure.

Others actively work to have a positive wintertime mindset. Instead of grousing about the bad weather with friends, they make an effort to spend time outside, because a breath of fresh air can do wonders.

When you’re planning your winter travels this year, change your opinion of winter and skip the priciest times at the beach resorts. Instead go see the Northern Lights (which are best seen in winter), explore Helsinki’s growing restaurant scene, visit Utrecht in winter, or plan a trip to Tromsø to experience this positive winter perspective for yourself.