Day 6

Tired of the winter doldrums? Keep calm and 'koselig' on

Spring might be fewer than 30 days away, but the dog days of winter are still raging. Stanford University's Kari Leibowitz and the University of Alberta's Natalie Van Deusen suggest Canadians look to Norway for handling the winter blues.

Koselig means 'cozy' in Norwegian, but it's also an entire state of being

Pull up some cozy socks, get a warm blanket, pour some hot cocoa and get into the koselig mood. (Shutterstock / Albina Glisic)

Kari Leibowitz describes this time of year as the "winter doldrums."

The holidays are well in the rear-view mirror and spring is mere weeks away, but those dreaded winds of winter are most assuredly still chilling the air. 

That's why Leibowitz, a health psychologist and graduate fellow at Stanford University who has researched Norwegian culture, says this time of year is "where the rubber meets the road, in terms of trying to really embrace winter."

And Leibowitz is able to maintain an optimistic attitude about this time of year thanks in part to koselig, a Norwegian word that technically just means cozy, "but [is] really so much more than that."

"It's really a state of being, a state of mind that involves not just material coziness, but also psychological safety, feeling at peace, feeling comfortable — that sort of intimacy you might get from a really great conversation with a friend in a darkly-lit restaurant," Leibowitz told Day 6

Kari Leibowitz is a health psyhchologist and graduate fellow at Stanford University. She's also spent extensive time researching Norwegian culture, including koselig. (Submitted by Kari Leibowitz)

According to Natalie Van Deusen, an associate professor of Scandinavian studies at the University of Alberta, koselig is similar to the Danish concept of hygge.

While hygge can also be translated to mean cozy, Van Deusen points out that koselig is more grounded in outdoor enjoyment, speaking to the Norwegian adoration of outdoor living. 

"It's very much of [Norwegian] culture — being out in the mountains, out skiing — and it's been part of Norwegian identity for a really long time," Van Deusen said.

Nonetheless, Leibowitz points out that it's entirely possible to experience a state of koselig while being indoors. 

Natalie Van Deusen is a professor of Scandinavian studies at the University of Alberta. (University of Alberta)

"Even if you're indoors, you're not stuck inside — you don't have to be inside because there's nothing else to do, you get to be inside, being cozy during the winter," she said. 

"So you get to lean into gathering around the fireplace, or lighting candles and eating dinner, or really indulging in bingeing Netflix, or reading books, or writing poetry … or whatever sort of indoor pursuits are pleasurable for you." 

And for those North Americans who think koselig is something you can buy, Van Deusen has some words of warning: Trying to force a state of koselig is "in some ways anti-koselig."

Instead, both Leibowitz and Van Deusen say that experiencing koselig is simply a matter of appreciating one's circumstances. 

"Just recognizing and being happy when you have that feeling of contentment, when you're all of a sudden not worrying about COVID-19 or stressed about politics … and you're just enjoying, just acknowledging when it's happening and just being thankful," Van Deusen said. 

Written and produced by Sameer Chhabra.

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