One of my happiest memories takes place in February, which is hilarious because February is a frigid, dark, gray month. It was a winter wedding weekend at mountain resort, where the snow is somehow always fresh and you can ice-skate safely on the river. The marriage didn’t last, but the memories of log beds with plaid blankets and hot chocolates by the fireplace will keep me emotionally snuggled forever. To describe it succinctly, it was pure koselig.
If that word feels foreign, that’s because it literally is. Koselig is a concept from Norway that embraces this ski-lodge-vacation-with-your-loved-ones type of energy. It doesn’t translate smoothly, but the best English equivalent is “cozy.”
Let me guess what you’re thinking now: Koselig sounds a lot like that tough-to-pronounce Danish concept of hygge. If so, you’re right again because, well, it kind of is Norway’s version of hygge. Koselig and hygge are both rooted in the belief that there’s nothing better than coziness. But where hygge life emphasizes JOMO and a love of solitude with the likes of Netflix binges and weighted blankets, koselig calls upon a more adventurous spirit and social desire.
While there’s no wrong way to practice self care, we tend to trust Scandinavian countries when it comes to joy: Norway, after all, landed the top spot on the 2017 World Happiness Report (getting the silver and bronze medal in 2018 and 2019, respectively). Take a moment to appreciate those findings because this region endures brutally cold temperatures and short, pitch-black days—and people effing love it, so everyone else might be wise to take note in an effort to improve winter-blues situations. It’s often during the chilly season that so many feel lonely and isolated but still elect to shut ourselves out from the world, but koselig teaches us that not only is social connection possible when it’s cold outside, but it can be even therapeutic.
“When an individual is suffering from seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues, isolation can lead to deeper feelings of [loneliness],” says psychotherapist Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW. “Commonly when we begin feeling these symptoms, it makes us pull away from our supports and those who care about us when we need them most. By having an open and honest conversation with our loved ones, it can give them the needed insights to continue to ask us to get together or push us to be social when it’s the last thing we want to do.”
Furthermore, these communal, cozy-yet-adventurous experiences can help us build intimacy and strengthen bonds. Because, hey, if you can’t beat the temperature and 4 p.m. sunsets, why not gather some friends to make the best of it, and also some memories.
“Embracing this idea of leaning into the winter and finding positive ways to enjoy it can lead us to feel less alone, more positive, and closer to those who we care about,” Silvershein says. “When summer arrives, there is an endless pressure to go out and socialize, so enabling winter to lead you toward authentic, deep, close relationships and connection seems perfect.”
To be clear, I don’t think you need to book a trip to Norway (or any idyllic winter wonderland) in order to make some koselig happen for you. It’s more about finding bonding opportunities that are emphasized by the cold weather, choosing to be snowed in with your friends, eating buckwheat waffles, and then putting all your thick sweaters to good use and hitting up an ice rink or whatever other activity will give you a seasonally sanctioned rush of happiness.