Scandinavians are well known for their excellent design sensibilities and their more-than-awesome Nordic history. They are pretty talented at devising ways to keep the dark at bay as well.

As we approach the winter season, here in Gothenburg our skies are cloud covered. Itís been raining for a week and most likely it isnít going to stop anytime soon. Winter is coming Ö and taking a clue from the Swedes, I learned to not only deal with the darkness and the rain, but Iíve come to embrace it. Here are a few tips that helped me chase away the winter blues ó Scandinavian style.

1) Get some Vitamin D: You canít rely on getting enough Vitamin D when you only have five precious hours of daylight a day. Invest in a good Vitamin D supplement. While youíre at it, some omega-3 wouldnít hurt either. This stuff saved my life.

2) Candlelight: Create a romantic atmosphere Ö even if itís just for yourself. Fire light is a natural source of lighting. Its flame not only enhances your state of mind but will keep you company on many a long winter night. Even better are scented candles. Thereís a reason candles are so popular in Sweden. I use them everyday.

3) Decorate: Adding some color in your home will greatly lift your mood. Bringing home a bouquet has always brightened my spirits. Additionally, adding some colorful objects to a coffee table or bookshelf gives your eye a new place to rest. Blankets in green, yellow or orange will provide double duty not only keeping you warm and cozy, but they also add a splash of color to your home. If youíre feeling really motivated, try painting a room in a new shade or reorganizing some space.

4) Get outdoors: Scandinavia is an outdoor culture. Join in by skiing, ice fishing or simply going for a daily walk. Take your camera and see what you can capture. In fact, bring some of the outdoors in to you. A few well placed plants, a potted tree or fern, or objects from nature will warm up any cold dark day.

5) Exercise: Enough said, right? We all know the benefits of this one. But in Scandinavia, health goes hand-in-hand with happiness perhaps more than in other countries. This culture simply embraces healthy attitudes toward nature, exercise and eating well. So head out ó even in the depths of the winter cold.

6) SAD lamp: The addition of a light therapy box (for Seasonal Affective Disorder) is new this year to my arsenal of winter mood enhancing tools. I just used it for the first time today. Lovely! Waking up to birds singing and an ever increasing glow of what appears to be sunlight filtering through the bedroom. Iím keen to see how a few weeks of light therapy improves my winter experience ó or not.

7) Make it cozy: Big fluffy blankets and woolen socks. Cuddle up. Perhaps one of my greatest pleasures. Getting cozy and comfortable. It soothes the soul. Be good to yourself.

8) Family life: In Sweden, family life is central to the ideal of good living which has given the Nordic region its fame for happiness and harmony. Here relationships and family mean so much more than a working career. In Sweden, Friday nights ó Fredagsmys (Friday coziness) ó is usually reserved for the family to get together with a good meal, a great movie, snacks and lots of fun. So use the evening as your new ritual (it usually starts around 4 p.m.) to bond, cuddle up and reconnect with your loved ones.

9) Catch up on your reading: With so many good books available, you never have to be alone. Read the classics. Start a new series. Find a new favorite author. Reading can take you away to new lands and new ideas.

10) Travel: Speaking of getting away, if your budget allows, travel somewhere new. It doesnít have to be a week-long adventure. A simple daytrip or weekend getaway can really inspire you.

11) Catch up on your sleep: Many Scandinavians sleep extra long hours during the winter months. Go ahead. Nap. Itís good for you.

12) Give a dinner party: Decorate your table with beautiful dishware, cook a great meal, clean your home from top to bottom, and then enjoy an evening with friends or family.

13) Take good care of yourself: Eating healthy, meditating or taking a bubble bath will help chase away the dark demons. Maybe a gym membership or yoga class is something that inspires you Ö and you might make some new friends there, too.

14) Embrace the simple things: Itís really all about attitude. My first winter in Sweden was just awful. Since that time, Iíve come a long way in adjusting. Taking pleasure in the things Iíve listed above will help but there are things that the dark winter can give you that you will not find at any other time of the year. Take advantage of those benefits, and remember Ö spring is coming!

By Lisa Mikulski