Today is the darkest day of the year and from now on the amount of sunlight will increase until midsummer. As you might have heard, the changes in amount of daylight are rather big here in the north, during the winter we barely see the sun and during summer it is the opposite.
Some of us are more sensitive to the changes than others, although my home country, Finland isn’t that different, yet I really have noticed the change in the amount of light and how it affects me when I moved to the north. In bigger cities the amount of artificial light somewhat compensates the lack of sunlight, but in Umeå it sometimes feels like all we have is darkness. I noticed the difference also during the summer when I traveled from Umeå to Helsinki and had to sleep with the lights on the first couple of nights, as I was used to having more sunlight during the nights and the nights in Helsinki were darker. Living with very little daylight can be somewhat depressing, but there are ways to survive. Some of my friends have said they just work a lot during the winter so they don’t have to pay attention to the darkness. Here are my ways to deal with it.
It helps instantly at least for a little while. I’ve always been more of a tea drinker and didn’t really drink coffee until I moved to Sweden. The main reason was that it kept me awake during the days and made mornings so much smoother.
Humans sleep naturally more during the dark period of the year, so let it happen. I start going to bed earlier when it gets dark and sometimes nap during the days, though darkness is not an excuse to stay in bed 24/7.
If you’re living in the north for a longer period of time, a daylight lamp might be worth an investment. They’re helpful especially during the mornings when its still dark outside and you have to get up and leave for school or work.
Not only it keeps you active and warm it might help to escape the winter. We’re naturally physically less active during the winter, but resisting the temptation to spend the evening in front of the tv is worth it. Winter is a good opportunity for new sports, such as skiing or ice skating, but even going to the gym helps a lot. Many gyms in Sweden have a sauna, which makes the experience even better.
Spend as much time outdoors as you can
The brightest hours are somewhere between 9AM and 2PM, the same hours most of us spend at school or work. Though it might be too cold for a picnic lunch, taking breaks and just walking outdoors a few minutes helps. If your schedule is flexible you can try to get work done during the dark hours and enjoy the little sunlight available. If I don’t have group work or lectures, I sometimes take the day off for doing other things and go study at the library at 5 or 6 PM and stay until they close.
Some people have told me that they actually enjoy the darkness. It might be a nice change for the never ending sun during the summer and help us to focus more on work. And up here in the north we have the northern lights, which I never get enough of! If your time in Sweden is limited, surviving the winter is also an experience you take home with you.
Ps. the featured image of this post was taken last year in Luleå, which is even further up north than where I live. One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen around 1 PM.