It’s the most wonderful time of the year… except maybe it doesn’t feel that way if you’re new to the Swedish climate, where each day gets darker and shorter during winter. I come from Mexico, which you can guess is pretty much sunny all year, so if you think the darkness and cold are making you feel a little bit blue, you are definitely not alone. There are actually some common symptoms of SAD –and no, I don’t mean sadness– I actually mean Seasonal Affective Disorder. Trust me, it’s a thing!
To be more specific on how shorter days and reduced sunlight can impact our mood, the following are some of the usual symptoms:
Feeling tired all the time
Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
Appetite changes, cravings, weight gain
Becoming less sociable
Loss of pleasure or interest in activities
Neglecting your own needs
While experiencing SAD often makes these symptoms last for several weeks or months, the good news is that that there’s something you can do to beat the winter blues!
1. Lighten up with some light
Light therapy is one of the main ways to combat the winter blues. Special SAD lamps or light boxes can be bought online, just search for “light therapy lamp” or “ljusterapilampa” in Swedish. Sessions for as short as 30 minutes per day can have a significant impact on your mood and energy levels. For an extra dose of sunshine, try opening blinds and curtain and sitting closer to windows during the day.
2. Get moving
This next solution is easy and free: fresh air and exercise. Take advantage of the beautiful forests all around Sweden by taking a walk or a run outside, especially if there is some sunlight. On days when you don’t feel like going out or the weather isn’t that great, you can try doing a workout session at home. There are tons of videos on YouTube for yoga, kickboxing, cardio, Zumba, you name it! Aim to exercise at least 3-4 times a week for 30-60 minutes. You can start slow, but the important part is starting. You might even get a friend to join you!
3. Drink plenty of water
Yes, this is usually a thing we keep in mind during summer, but don’t forget to get plenty of fluids when the weather turns cool, too. Drinking too little water can slow down your metabolism and make you feel tired and cause headaches. Also, cranking up the heater can dry your skin, so some extra water will certainly be appreciated by your body.
4. Keep an eye on your diet
With fika sweets and Christmas treats in every corner (I’m looking at you, pepparkakor), it can be hard to keep a healthy diet. If you want to stay fit and healthy during this season, focus on vitamin-rich and seasonal meals that strengthen your immune system, such as green vegetables and legumes. Some of the typical Swedish good-mood foods include eggs, pumpkin, horseradish, wild-caught fish (salmon, herring, trout) and mushrooms.
5. Listen to music
Music is a great way to boost your mood, whether you listen to your favorite tracks or play an instrument. Studies have shown that music can stimulate the production of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin and have a positive effect on your mental health. If you’re feeling jolly, you can listen to some Christmas songs, which always cheer me up. And since we are in the land of ABBA, don’t be surprised if you end up transforming into a Dancing Queen (or King) and get those endorphins going!
That’s it! I hope these tips help you survive the beautiful, yet harsh, Swedish winter. Do you have any tips for coping with the winter? Be sure to share them on the comments section below!
It’s been nearly two months since I arrived in Sweden. I had been looking for an opportunity to pay a visit at Royal Mounds in Gamla Uppsala and make myself feel being one step closer to The Vikings era. It’s been fascinating for me to learn or know anything about Vikings since I was a kid. Therefore, moving to The Land of Varangians was like a dream come true. Vikings from Sweden were called Varangians.
I know you must be still wondering about the title of this blog and why I compared this place to Heaven. There are three large barrows or mounds in Gamla Uppsala, which are called Royal Mounds. Ancient mythology says that three gods, ODIN, THOR & FREYR lying or resting in Kungshögarna or Royal Mounds. I believe that this place doesn’t need any other reason to be called a piece of heaven on earth. According to Ynglinga Saga, three legendary kings were buried in these mounds, which is the reason for calling them Royal Mounds.
Gamla Uppsala is outside of the main town, and it takes only half an hour to go there by cycle from Flogsta. If anyone wants to take the bus, then they have to go to Vaksalagatan and take Bus no. 2 or Central Station and from there Bus no 101. I was expecting for a sunny day, but the clouds were too busy to let any sunshine touch the ground. At least, it wasn’t raining, which is why I felt blessed. Maybe, Odin wanted me to visit him.
We never know! Me and one of my best friends, we went there together. I am pretty sure my silly excitement bothered him a bit sometimes, but he didn’t complain. When we arrived in that little village, I felt a spiritual vibe, and it was so strange. We were entering into Gamla Uppsala there was no way we could miss that ancient Church tower. It has been there for more than nine hundred years!
While we were walking down the road and I was looking for those mounds, one minute seemed like an hour for me! I was looking around me and acting like a thirsty crow looking for a sign of water! Suddenly I saw a signboard which was nearby the Church. We knew that this must be the way. We came closer to the sign, and my eyes caught that little piece of HEAVEN on earth! I couldn’t waste my time to stand there to read that signboard. I left my friend while he was reading it and went to see these mounds. I wasn’t sure how long I had been looking at those mounds until I heard my friend was telling me something. It gave me goosebumps just thinking about Odin, Thor and Freyr are resting in these mounds though it’s just a myth!
It’s been more than a thousand years and it still feels exciting when you think about that you’re in a historical place which was very important for the Vikings in terms of politics, religion or even for their economy. I hardly take my picture with anything but this time I couldn’t resist myself from taking some photos with these mounds. Who knows, maybe when my friend was taking my pictures with these mounds, Odin or Thor also wanted to give some poses with me to be in the pictures. We spent a while around the Royal mounds and then started walking by the other little mounds. It’s nice to see that they built a nice fence around these mounds so that people can’t go up and ruin its natural beauty! While we’re going down further, we saw some people came here to run, some of them maybe took a walk with their dogs and kids. On our way, when we looked left, I was able to see the whole Uppsala city from there.
We’re just following other people and kept going. The weather wasn’t that bad while the Sun was kind of playing hide and seek with clouds which were also pretty enjoyable to watch. I love the cold weather, which is the reason I don’t want to complain even though we were getting hit by cold breezes later. While we kept walking, suddenly we saw a little mound and there are lots of stones with different sizes of places in different places of that mound. We went up to see what are those all about and found out this is a meditation spot though no one took that risk to meditate there in that cold weather.
There was a nice bench to sit down and enjoy that amazing view of Uppsala city. The other side of that mound didn’t have any pathway to go down, just a little forest, but we could see another side of the mountain and people were walking down there. Suddenly I started walking through that little grove and thinking maybe I am the only one who is going down through this way in the last thousand years. I know I wasn’t, but it was nice to get the imagination going before my friend found out there was an old way to go down the mound.
Now, we’re on the other part of those mounds. Suddenly we saw a signboard about the water source of Uppsala city. When we went down a little bit further away, we saw a place which is one of the places throughout the city from where they pump up groundwater to the drinking water treatment plants. It was very interesting to know about all this and see that place.
There was another mound and we went up to see that spectacular sight. You can imagine it by just closing your eyes and think it’s that time when the sun is going down and, you’re on top of a mound; the whole sky was turning into a red-blooded painting. Few people was having had a picnic with their families and friends. It was getting dark so quick and we didn’t want to miss visiting that ancient Church by the mounds. So, we kept walking through the other part of that mound and went down. While I was walking down, it wasn’t possible to resist that spectacular view of the northern part of Uppsala.
When we entered into the Church’s boundary, I couldn’t wait to go inside and be amused by its ancient beauty. Some people still believe that this church took precedence over an ancient pagan temple but, there was a survey which showed there were two Christian churches instead. Uppsala was Christianised in the 11th century.
This Church was built in the latter part of the 11th century, and it was finished in the 12th century. Majority parts of it were removed after a fire incident in 13th century and left only the Choir part with the Central Tower. There is a wooden door at the entrance. It’s so lovely inside with all the chalk paintings from the 15th century and medieval wooden sculptures. I was feeling so calm and peaceful inside. After passing the main entrance, there is a place where people can light a candle by wishing something or praying. Also, the church pulpit and the interior hold that traditional medieval beauty. It was getting dark very quick outside.
When we came out of the church, the Sun had already left us. But I still wanted to walk around this place, where people like Anders Celcius, his grandfather Magnus Celcius or King Eric IX of Sweden are laying down. Additionally, the view from that place towards the city is mesmerising even though it was already darkish outside.
Before I visited here, some of my friends were saying that there isn’t much to see and they don’t want to visit that place the second time. I just laughed inside but said nothing. I knew that they just didn’t have that inner view to see the beauty of this old part of the town or the history of it. Maybe the mythological stories didn’t even give them a tiny bit of excitement. But I can’t blame them for that opinion, because not everyone will be able to go to VALHALLA and have a Fika with ODIN!!