BY JENNIFER FERRIS Driving home from work last night did you think to yourself, “Gee, I wish it were darker and colder”? Yeah, me neither. But surprisingly, research shows that despite having fewer hours of sunlight and living with much lower temperatures, women in Denmark, Iceland and other Nordic countries are as happy as (very cold) clams.
Is it the Danish lunch of Leverpostej (liver paste) or the Icelanders’ love of glacier hiking that keeps their spirits high? Thankfully, no. Women in these countries who report high levels of happiness say it’s because they are treated as equals and are respected and supported by their governments and employers. Norway has the lowest rate of maternal mortality and gives parents 12 months of parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Sweden mandates that fully half of all arts grants go to female artists.
So how can women in the Tar Heel state get some of those Nordic good vibes when our weather resembles theirs? Here are a few suggestions that stop just short of buying a one-way ticket to the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Hygge: Pronounced sort of like “huge,” this is the Danish value of coziness. And it’s not just burrowing down in a nest of blankets and waiting for spring. Danes think of coziness in terms of community and support as well. Reach out to your friends and chat about topics of little consequence. Although some of the best hygge is done around a roaring fire, don’t let a lack of open flame stop you. You can hygge at the dinner table, in your living room, or on your porch. All that’s required is a sense of comfort and well-being.
Get out: Pretty much the opposite of hygge, but still equally important is exercise. Even though it can feel like torture to strap on your running shoes when the mercury drops, follow the Scandinavians’ lead and don’t skimp on the physical activity. Half of commuting in Copenhagen is by bicycle, even in December when sunrise is at 8:30 am and the sun is down before 4 in the afternoon.
Make with the social justice: I’m not going to say it’s the secret to surviving below-freezing temperatures, but maybe it’s no coincidence that Iceland has the greatest equality between men and women. When the weather outside is frightful, consider hunkering down and emailing your representative in the General Assembly about pay inequality. Women in North Carolina make .80 cents for every dollar their male counterparts do. That extra 20% could buy a lot of extra space heaters. I’m just sayin’.
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