My family and I moved to Sweden last year and we’re now in the middle of winter, our first winter in the country. Before moving I had, of course, heard all the good and bad things about Sweden. The long, cold, and dark winters were at the top of the list of things that were wrong with Sweden. And, truth be told, I was anxious at first as well. And although we’re still in the midst of the season there are some lessons that I have already learned.
Don’t resist but accept
My number one lesson to survive the winter in Sweden is that I can’t change it. It won’t get warmer, lighter, or go by quicker if I obsess with it.
Back in Australia I often took issue with the weather because I felt unprepared for it. Our house was drafty in winter and stuffy in summer. Our house in Sweden is neither of those things so I feel like there is nothing more I can do about the winter. Nothing more than to accept it and go with the flow.
So, in that spirit, I started a couple of winter projects, from knitting to writing, and I’m using the time indoors to work on them. I still don’t like that it’s pitch black at four o’clock in the afternoon but I know that even if I start to complain about, nothing will change. So I’m saving my breath and convert my energy into something useful.
Use the daylight and enjoy the sun
A reason why I’m approaching this season with ease is that I have the possibility to get outside when there is light. When the sun is out (which isn’t often) I take my cup of tea and go and sit outside, even if it’s minus degrees. I go for walks after lunch, I play in the snow with my kids, and I do the odd job outside when I can.
Of course, it can be uncomfortable. Even though I have a good winter coat, gloves, a hat, and a scarf I get cold. But I still try to be outside for at least 30 minutes each day, rain or shine. It doesn’t always work out but I try.
Watch what I eat
My nutrition in the winter months also plays a big part in how I feel. Just to give you some background: the main problem that can affect us humans when we don’t get enough sunlight is that we feel tired. In most cases, the reduced light has leat to a Vitamin D deficiency which makes us feel tired. And of course, a deficiency coupled with more indoor time and less access to fresh (local) fruit and veggies can increase our risk of infections. For that reason, it’s important to watch our diet during the winter. And that’s what I started doing.
Most vitamin D I get through additives in our milk and some supplements. Both cow’s and oat milk have added vitamin D in Sweden.
With my focus on local produce, I started fermenting food quite a bit because there isn’t much variety on offer to start with and I want at least a little diversity in my diet. So, in addition to cabbage fried, baked, and cooked I also made sauerkraut. I started to make kombucha, I pickled carrots, beetroot, and cucumbers. Fermenting and pickling is not only a good way to increase variety but it also helps to keep good bacteria in my stomach which increases my resistance to infections.
In the fruit department, I’m not as sufficient yet because I didn’t store the apples we had in autumn. I tend to buy Swedish apples as well as citrus fruit (which don’t come from Sweden unfortunately) and some bananas (also not from Sweden). I try to stick with the basics while not going overboard with the imports.
Enjoy it while it lasts
This might seem contradictory to what most people will tell you about the Swedish winter but I really try to make the most of it. I enjoy the Christmas lights outside, the chill in the air, the anticipation of snow, and the huddle inside. I know that winter isn’t going to last all year.
And after winter comes spring with higher temperatures and then summer when the days go on forever. So it’s all relative and I try to enjoy every moment, winter or summer, because it’s not going to last.