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Surviving the Dark Time

Welcome to mørketiden – the dark time. These pictures show Trondheim at 3:58pm two days ago, with over five weeks of shortening days still to come before the Winter Solstice:

Trondheim in November

And by the time I got home to Moholt roughly 20 minutes later:

Moholt in November

Trondheim is 250 miles due north of Oslo and it's really noticeable at this time of year, with the days shortening much faster than they did in Oslo. And of course, things are even worse in the north of Norway. Above the Arctic Circle the sun doesn't even rise, and residents of Tromsø, Alta, etc have to make do with an eery (yet beautiful) purple polar night twilight for several weeks.

In fact, the sun not rising is the real definition of mørketiden, but with the grim-grey mornings and rapidly darkening afternoons in Trondheim, I'm going to use it here too. Tough luck, linguists.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is often joked about in other parts of the world, but it's a genuine condition and a serious issue in Norway.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that “some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up.”[4] The condition in the summer can include heightened anxiety. SAD was formally described and named in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health.

There are many different treatments for classic (winter-based) seasonal affective disorder, including light therapy with sunlight or bright lights, antidepressant medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, ionized-air administration,[8] and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin. (Wikipedia)

While I'm not claiming to be suffering, I do feel more tired in the mornings, with a lowered mood throughout the day. This despite my business going very well of late. At this time of year, many Norwegians fly off to warmer, sunnier, brighter countries, particularly those of pensionable age, of whom some spend the entire dark time abroad.

Last year I wrote about escaping the darkness, well this year we did exactly the same thing, heading off to Tenerife for a week!

Teide, Tenerife

Golf del Sur, Tenerife

But on return, the contrast was even more stark. Taking off in 25C weather and landing in 1C icy rain was -not- fun. So, how to deal with the dark time?

Keep active

Easier said than done. When your alarm goes off and it's pitch black outside, rain tapping on the window, the very last thing you want to do is get up and get active. But physical exercise is the number one “cure” for depression at this time of year. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s very own natural antidepressant.

One of the most obvious ways to keep active during a Norwegian winter is to learn to ski. Still working on that one

Keep to your usual routine

In the UK, the winter is an excuse to turn up late for work, spend long evenings in the pub, and just generally make excuses why you can't do that piece of DIY. In Norway, life goes on. It has to. Offices have storage rooms for skis and “drying rooms” to hang drenched winter coats and winter boots.

Buses and trains *generally* still run to time. Cafes put reindeer skins and blankets on their outdoor seating. Keeping to your usual routine tells your body everything is OK.

Dance with the tricky lady

Head north to view nature's light show. This winter is supposedly the best year of the decade for viewing the aurora, so embrace the dark time and see something amazing. Even in Trondheim the lights have already been visible several times since September.

Don't over-sleep

It's tempting to think the lack of daylight is justification for staying in bed all morning. But too much sleep will make you tired. Scientists continue to debate it, but many studies suggest oversleeping can lead to serious complications:

A 2007 Finnish study found that the mortality risks increased by about 20 percent for people who slept more than eight hours

Whatever the science, I know that when I sleep for long periods, I tend to feel groggy the following day.

Fly, fly away!

Already done this one, hmm…

Any other tips, people?

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

4 Comments

  1. Can understand why Norwegians or scandanavians in general look forward to the white stuff…it brightens their day, gives some momentum to their efforts to get around and aren’t quite as wet from the flaky rain?

  2. Møllers!!! It can be pouring down on me, my sight going to work can be limited to 10 m because of the dense fog but nothing brings me in bad mood cause I swallowed my legal happy pills 🙂

  3. Great tips! I take vitamin D pills, try to stay active as well (but yes, I wanna hide under a blanket on the couch every now and then LOL), cook lots of warming foods and plan (dinner) parties at home. Good music and fireplaces are good for my mood as well:)

  4. Now you know how Norwegians got to be good at skiing. Skiing is not a sport, it is a way to get around in snow. To cure winter blues, go buy a plain old fashioned Norwegian cookbook written by someones grandmother and make a few of the simple recipes. You will be so happy with your home made rye bread and your specific meats cut as directed, onion and salt only spice, slow cooked according to grandmothers directions, perfectly made sailors stew, you won’t have time to be sad. And you will rush home to reheat it for dinner the next day. Good food always tastes better reheated the next day. Wait until you do your own reindeer with lingonberries just right. Mastering good simple correctly prepared Norwegian food cooking is how you get through the winter happily. EnJoy.

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