Most Finn will tell you, winter in Finland can be beautiful but also depressing. As November and December get closer, here are some tips on how to cope with what’s coming.
Know what to expect
For those of you who will experience their first winter in Finland, it is essential to have an idea of what’s coming.
Shortly summarized, Finnish winter consists of a few things that will repeat themselves over and over: darkness, rain, cold, some snow, and a lot of grey/brown colors. Darkness is the one most likely to affect you in the long run. It might not sound too bad at the moment but as winter progresses, the light outside will slowly diminish until a day comes where you wonder: when has it been since I’ve last seen a ray of sun?
As a matter of fact, there will be some days when you wake up, go to work/University, come back home in the afternoon and not see the sun at all. In December, the sun will rise around 09.40, and set as early as 15.20. It will feel almost like there is no time between sunrise and sunset.
All this can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, which is a change in mood related to a change in season (usually winter). A few options exist to prevent this, or treat it efficiently.
The first option is the possibility to take Vitamin D supplements, easily available in any pharmacy or grocery store. Vitamin D is usually obtained by the body through sun exposure, but as mentioned above, that can be quite a challenge in the winter. Although milk in Finland already contains a certain added dose of the vitamin, taking a supplement will help provide the required daily amount.
A second possible solution is to buy a light designed to replicate the sun’s effect on the body. From experience, it does work, especially in the morning when it is still dark outside. Using the lamp can help regulate sleep cycles and will make it easier to stay awake.
Exercising regularly can also help and ensure you stay active. The temptation of staying home will increase as the weather gets worse but it can nevertheless help coping with the winter. Eating healthy will also contribute to one’s well-being, which is particularly important at this time of the year.
Perhaps the most important advice, however, is the necessity to socialise. Meeting people and doing hobbies or activities will ensure that you do not think too much about how depressing Finnish winter can be. Instead, winter can also be an opportunity to meet new people and enjoy the company of your friends. Team sports, for instance, can provide an opportunity to both socialise and exercise.
On a different note, it is also important during the dark months to stay visible while going around in the city. Bike lights and reflectors are crucial to ensure that car drivers and other users of the road can see you. Reflectors are usually available for free at TYS office.
Is it all bad?
Of course not! Winter in Finland is also full of opportunities and great moments.
Although Turku is usually not very snowy in the winter, you might still have the possibility to try some winter sports. Cross-country skiing, hiking, or ice skating will ensure you make the best of the few sunny days. Sauna and ice swimming are also some of those activities which can be best enjoyed in the winter (more on that in a future blog).
Snowy Finnish landscapes are another reason to enjoy the winter. Snow has this almost magic ability to make everything look better.
In a few bullet points
- It is important avoid underestimating the influence of darkness during Finnish winter
- Vitamin D supplements, healthy food, and special lights can help your body adapt adequately
- Exercising and socializing are also essential part of a healthy winter lifestyle
- Stay visible while going around by foot or by bike
- And ultimately, enjoy, winter is also a beautiful season with lots to offer!