Living in Alaska means long summer days with seemingly endless daylight, but it also means even longer cold and dark winters. Thriving in the midst of the long winter season in Alaska is challenging. The frenetic energy of summer has long since gone and is replaced with a desire to go into hibernation mode. For me, winter has been synonymous with lower energy levels and a more melancholy mood. However, I’ve found a few ways to thrive and not just survive winter in Alaska, and I’d love to share them with you. If you spend time in a cold dark climate and want to know how to live well, this one’s for you.
1. Sauna/Cold Plunge
Growing up I never understood the appeal of the sauna - sitting inside an insanely hot wooden box sounded boring and also a little like torture to me…but as an adult I’ve become a true sauna convert. The deep warmth of the sauna feels heavenly on a subzero day, not to mention the health benefits, especially if you add in a cold plunge! Studies have shown that alternating between hot and cold stimulates blood flow, eliminates toxins, repairs muscles, boosts happiness hormones, improves sleep, reduces inflammation, and improves your immune system. What’s not to love? I’ve started adding this into my routine as much as I can - whether it’s splurging at Alyeska's Nordic Spa or a free sauna session at my cousin’s house, complete with making snow angels as my “cold plunge”!
2. Moving My Body Outside
Finding motivation to go outside when it is below zero and pitch black can be a challenge. But I have yet to regret doing so, because I always come back feeling better. Whether it’s a short walk down my street or a ski on the local trails, I return with more endorphins flowing than I started out with, and this is why I move my body. The fact that it is dark and cold outside doesn’t change the fact that movement releases those happy hormones, and when do we need those more than in the dead of winter?
3. Create a Cozy Home Environment
I'll be honest - I used to not see the value in home-making. Why would I spend time investing in my home when I could be outside on an adventure? However, over the past few years I’ve realized that how my home looks and feels matters quite a bit. Not so it is Pinterest perfect or Instagram worthy, but so we have a place of rest and rejuvenation that we can invite others into. This is especially important in winter when we are spending so much more time inside our homes. Spending time at The Nordic Home has really inspired me in this area - they have endless options for creating a cozy, beautiful, peaceful home. I’ve also been loving the book “Holy Hygge” as solid inspiration for why creating a beautiful home matters. And if you’re wanting more on this topic, you'll probably love reading my next post on 5 Ways I’m Making My Home Feel More Peaceful. (coming soon!)
4. Connect Regularly with Others
Last winter, my husband Robert made a comment to me something like “wow, you really seem like you’re thriving this winter”. Up until this point, that was not a word he has ever used to describe me in winter, which tells you a bit about how I usually handle winters and why I needed to find a better strategy! Anyway, that winter I was meeting regularly with a friend to discuss a book and then go for a ski. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this winter went better than previous winters. I’ve heard it said that our level of connection with others directly correlates with our happiness, and in my experience this is 100% true. It’s not always easy but living connected is worth it.
5. Go Somewhere Warm
During the peak of winter Anchorage receives about 5 hours of daylight. It’s easy to forget what the sun looks and feels like. Robert has always said I am solar powered, and he couldn’t be more right. I start picking my winter hiking routes based on where the sun will be shining, and I also start dreaming of Hawaii. Every January we travel to a warm location to recharge. The craziness of the holidays is behind us and we can reflect on the past year and plan/dream for the next. Maui is our location of choice. Non-stop flights on Alaska Airlines and endless outdoor activities in the sun make this an easy solution for our sun deprived selves. This boost of vitamin D gives us renewed energy for the remaining months of darkness and cold. We’ve done Hawaii on the cheaper end, camping on the beach, and other times spending more to rent an Airbnb. Using our AK airlines companion fare or miles to purchase flights helps reduce cost, which saves more cash for mai tais and snorkel gear! We plan and budget to make it happen because we’ve decided a warm retreat outside of Alaska is something we value a LOT.
Living in a Northern climate can be difficult, especially in the winter. However, it’s possible to thrive, not just survive, during winter up north! I hope you enjoyed these 5 Tools I Use to Thrive in a Dark Northern Climate.