Embracing the Polar Night: Life in Tromsø, Where the Sun Doesn’t Rise for 50 Days

It is well-known that January is often a hard month. Coined the January blues, many people experience low moods following the return to work, post-Christmas financial worries and diminishing daylight. Many of us dread a dark winter, so how do those living in the Arctic Circle cope with long periods of almost- complete darkness?

Tromsø in Norway experiences around 50 days of the Polar Night Season. From about mid-November to mid-January the sun doesn’t rise at all, apart from a few hours of twilight light from about 9 am to 2 pm.

With a population of around 77,000 and located at very nearly 70°N, Tromsø is considered the cultural hub of the Arctic Circle. The city boasts the world’s northernmost brewery and university, and even hosts a marathon on the summer solstice. The Midnight Sun Marathon is designed to take advantage of the sun’s continuous presence from about the end of May to the end of July. Tromsø is also known as a great place to watch the Northern lights, ideal for those of us with it on our bucket lists.

Surprisingly, despite almost 2 months of near-complete darkness, a study conducted by the University of Tromsø showed that citizen well-being remained consistent across the year. This resilience can be attributed to their positive mindsets towards winter. Many embrace the opportunity to engage in new winter activities such as skiing, mountain hiking, and enjoying the coziness of winter months.

Kari Leibowitz’s research indicates that positive attitudes towards winter increase with latitude, suggesting this mindset occurs where it is most needed. Leibowitz states:

“Most people don’t realise their beliefs about winter are subjective. They feel like they’re just someone who hates the winter and there’s nothing they can do about it… But once you put it in people’s heads that mindsets exist, and that you have the control over your mindset- I think that that’s tremendously powerful. “

A key concept to this mindset is friluftsliv- roughly translating to ‘open air life’. This idea encourages wrapping up warm and getting outside to boost moods, mental health, and physical wellbeing. Think of the refreshing cold on the skin, seeing a beautiful view, or even just the act of moving. Focusing on the opportunities of winter can be beneficial in getting through, and even enjoying, wintertime.

One of the ways this is done is by using light to celebrate the darkness- like gathering around a fire or turning on fairy lights. As good as friluftsliv is, sometimes the beauty of winter can be about succumbing to the desire to hibernate. A good book, a favourite film and a hot drink can go a long way.

So, this cold and dark January, how can we make the most of winter?


Getting outside

Focusing on the opportunities of winter

And letting our bodies rest

Dr Solhaug, a psychology researcher at the University of Tromso, says:

“Welcoming the shifts in seasons, instead of regretting them, puts you in contact with the rhythms of life and death, with nature, which might also help us put things in our life into perspective,”

Featured image: Stein Egil Liland via Pexels

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Our YouTube Channel