Friday, January 27, 2012

Tips on surviving a Finnish winter

You have probably heard many of the stereotypes about Scandinavia and Finland in the winter time.  "It is icy, cold, freezing, snowy and unbearable, etc."  However, when it comes down to it, the main issue in my opinion is not the chilly weather, but the darkness.  One can always prepare for colder weather by wearing more layers, scarves, hats, and warm jackets, however battling short, dark days is an entirely different story.   When winter kicks off in late December in Southern Finland, the sunrise is about 9:30am and sunset is 3:00pm. There actually is a medical term called SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.  From Wiki : "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depressionwinter bluessummer depressionsummer blues, or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer,[1] spring or autumn year after year. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-IV), SAD is not a unique mood disorder, but is a specifier of major depression"  While this can be an issue, there are definitely many ways to combat it.  With a strong demeanor and open mind, you can make it through those dark days of winter in Finland.

Here are 5 tips that might help

1. Exercise - Finns are crazy about their sports and it seems even more so in the winter than the summer.  I have noticed many large sporting halls that feature plenty of fun activities.  The more popular indoor sports in Finland include, badminton, swimming, squash, tennis, and salibandy (floor hockey).  I also notice that many people are out skating on the numerous ice rinks around town. People are also out Nordic walking (walking with ski poles) and of course the very popular cross-country skiing.  Just because it is cold and snowy outside doesn't mean Finns store their bikes for the winter.  They just throw on spiked tires and go about their daily routines on two wheels.  So, keep active and you will feel invigorated and energetic even during the darkest of days.

2. Stay social - Just because it is -10 Celsius outside and dark, doesn't mean you should burrow and hibernate for the winter.  It is important to get out and keep active in your social groups and clubs.

3. Enjoy the outdoors - The days may be shorter, but that doesn't mean you cannot get out and enjoy them. Take a walk in the nature, run or cross-country ski.  Breathe in the fresh Arctic air.

4. Shift your schedule - During the winter, try to shift your schedule to doing your work earlier and perhaps later in the day.  Take a few hours in the middle of the day when it is lightest to do your chores, personal stuff, exercise, etc.  

5. Indoor sunlamp therapy- This might sound silly, but it actually works.   In Finland they sell these special sun lamps which are like a giant light bulb that simulates the sunlight in your room.  You can adjust the light to your needs and monitor how long they are one, etc.  Instant sun energy is coming your way.  :)

Sun lamp for light therapy


  1. i had to have a sunlamp when i moved to ohio in the US i live in freaking bergen, norway...home to nearly 260+ cloudy/rainy days per year (i honestly think it is more). it is funny because i didnt suffer too much from the winter blues this year despite it was my first scandinavian winter, but it could have been better. i wish i was better at exercising!

  2. can you please mention brands and names of these special lightbulbs?

  3. I lived for some years in northern Sweden where we had similar issues. Clothing is always important - we had minus 41C at lowest - and always went for long walks through the forest et. Simply beautufl and breath-taking, literally, at times.