Koselig: How to embrace and make the most out of winter

Koselig, pronounced "kooshleg," is a Norwegian mental state that focuses on the positive aspects of the cold weather season.

Koselig, pronounced “kooshleg,” is a Norwegian mental state that focuses on the positive aspects of the cold weather season.

As we endure shorter hours of daylight, colder temps and the irresistible temptation to stay wrapped in a blanket until April, it’s almost instinctual for many of us to hunker down and hibernate until the weather report announces the first thaw.
We may go weeks or months without visiting good friends because we consider the cold, wind and snow an inconvenience. Gassing up a car in December can seem like a feat worthy of a gold medal in winter endurance.
The days are shorter. The nights are longer and colder.
We sleep more. Eat more. Complain more.
There’s nothing positive about being negative about winter, and this mindset can have a domino effect on our mood. It can affect our physical energy, mental focus, work-life balance, and overall well-being.
Instead of griping about cold snaps and dark days, the Norwegian people decided long ago that life was a whole lot easier if people just made the best of winter. They invented a term, koselig (pronounced: kooshleg), to describe ways families, friends and communities can come together to make the best of the weather, even during blizzards.
Koselig, which roughly translates in English to mean “cozy” or “coziness,” isn’t so much a term as it is a mental state. Koselig embraces wrapping up in warm sweaters and sipping hot tea, sure. However, koselig also means braving the elements and meeting friends outdoors for a walk, run or cross-country skiing.
Others ways to adopt the koselig mindset are:

  • Light candles at night. Don’t feel like it has to be the holidays to fill your home with the scent of a good candle. Many Norwegians light many candles throughout their house to create a feeling of warmth and intimacy. If you’re nervous about fires, try using electric lanterns or LED candles.
  • Host a dinner party. Invite friends from all facets of your life and serve warm drinks with comforting foods, like stews and freshly baked bread.
  • Get outside. Perhaps the most beneficial element of koselig is to get outdoors, even if it’s barely above zero. Dress for the elements by layering, and don’t worry about fashion. You’re getting fresh air and lapping the people sitting on their couches.
  • Look up. Clear winter skies can honor your koselig spirit with sundogs, northern lights and a clear view of the stars above. The best part: You don’t need to go outside to do this.
  • Do what makes you feel good. Reading, knitting, whittling, lifting weights at the gym. No matter what makes you feel good, don’t let the weather limit what you do.
  • Most important of all: Let go of the unhealthy habit of complaining about winter. It only makes things worse and fuels others’ negative feelings toward a season that offers an abundance of ways to reconnect with friends, family and yourself.

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    Nicotine is still a problem, and here’s why


    For more than half a century now, Americans have been told by the U.S. Surgeon General that tobacco is addictive and deadly, yet millions across the country continue to light up or chew.

    Although fewer people use tobacco than they did in decades’ past, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are still 42.1 million smokers in the United States today.

    Despite efforts to curb ads that attract young tobacco users, each day more than 3,200 people younger than age 18 try their first cigarette. This does not include people who use other forms of tobacco, like chew, snuff and the new and very popular e-cigarettes.

    About e-cigarettes
    E-cigarettes have become popular with younger people and smokers who are trying to quit the habit. Some say electronic cigarettes are a way to wean off tobacco. Use among high school students increased 61 percent from 2012 to 2013.

    Available for purchase at convenience stores, gas stations, specialty stores and anywhere cigarettes are sold, e-cigarettes contain flavored liquids that, when lit and inhaled, create a nicotine vapor that feels like “real” cigarette smoking. Many users refer to e-cigarette smoking as “vaping.”

    This real smoking sensation is why many traditional cigarette smokers turn to vaping as a less dangerous way to deliver nicotine to the lungs and body. However, there isn’t enough proof yet to show whether or not vaping is actually a safer alternative to smoking regular cigarettes.

    Dessert or danger?
    Vaping may appeal to younger people because vaping liquids come in all sorts of sweet flavors, such as “Rip Tide,” which users say tastes like a Jolly Rancher. Other popular flavor combinations are: Raspberry Banana, Blackberry Lemonade and Cherry Limeade.

    The bottom line is: E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which means they’re just as addictive as traditional forms of tobacco.

    Quit for good
    Whether smokers use cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chew or they vape, they have an addiction that could cause long-term health problems, such as cancer, emphysema and other breathing diseases.

    The good news? There are many resources available for tobacco users who want to quit. While some are able to quit on their own, others succeed by enlisting support. Proven tips include:

    • Tell your friends, colleagues and family members about your plans to quit.
    • Spend time with those who don’t use tobacco.
    • Look into programs such as NDQuits or Quitpal, an app from the National Cancer Institute. Office workers can download the American Cancer Society’s Smokeout Countdown Clock, which offers practical support tips for the first months smoke-free.
    • Find a support group. Ask your employer or health care provider about stop-smoking programs, or look into Nicotine Anonymous.
    • Exercise. People who exercise when they crave cigarettes are more likely to overcome the urge to smoke.
    • Socialize: Smokers who share their struggles via social media are more successful at quitting.

    Nicotine gum and patches
    Since nicotine addiction is also physical, some people benefit from the use of nicotine replacement therapy and/or medicines to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. See your doctor for guidance in a comprehensive quit plan that may include medications.

    If at first you don’t succeed …
    Yep, keep on trying. It may take one time or ten times, including a combination of medication, social support and some major willpower.

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    Flu season tips

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    Flu season has returned, but there are some simple steps you can take to protect your family and the community from influenza.

    The most important step parents can take is to make sure their children and the members of their immediate family get flu shots. Young children and the elderly are especially at risk. Getting flu shots not only helps to protect your family. It also helps others through herd immunity, where those who have received a flu vaccine help to block the spread of the influenza virus.

    Immunizations aren’t just for kids. The flu shot is one of a number of immunizations that are recommended for adults.

    The flu virus is constantly changing, so it is important to get a new flu shot every year with the updated vaccine to help protect against the current strain of the flu.

    Here is some more information about the flu, from the CDC: www.cdc.gov/flu.

    Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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    How our employees are giving back

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    As a North Dakota-based company that has been based in the state for 75 years, we believe in working together to help others. That’s why we have 10 service centers throughout the state to provide local service to our members. Our employees are your friends and neighbors.

    We also believe in giving back to local communities throughout the state. Not only does our company give back by supporting key initiatives, such as our support of the Shoes for Kids program, United Way, local elementary schools, and other events and organizations.

    Our employees are very active in their local communities. Nearly 40 percent of our 1,000 North Dakota employees volunteer in their local communities. Those employees spend an average of 8 hours a month volunteering their time outside of work to help enrich their communities.

    Here is a look at some of the ways our employees are giving back:

    day of caring group photo
    United Way
    A total of 164 Fargo-area employees on 35 teams of company-based volunteers performed community service projects in the Fargo area as part of the Day of Caring event put on by the United Way of Cass-Clay in October.

    school group photo
    Fargo school children
    A group of our employees volunteered in September to sort and pack boxes of new Nike Pegasus running shoes that were delivered to Fargo area schools as part of the Shoes for Kids program.

    Our company provides matching funds to help support the program that will provide 1,200 shoes to deserving local school children this school year.

    salvation army coats for kids
    Salvation Army
    Our Grand Forks employees held a winter clothing drive in September to collect winter coats and other winter clothes and gear for the Salvation Army to help children and families in need.

    socks for the homeless
    Socks for the homeless
    Our employees in Fargo donated 443 pairs of new socks to the Joy of Sox campaign that provides new socks to the homeless. Then the company stepped up by donating another 6,720 pairs of new socks for the drive in September.

    school supplies drive
    School supplies drive
    A group of our employees in Jamestown collected donations for the local Community Action Partnership organization and Jamestown Buffalo Mall’s “Stuff the Bus” fundraiser in August to provide back-to-school supplies to children in need in the local community.

    ronald mcdonald house volunteering
    Ronald McDonald House
    A group of our Fargo employees regularly volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House’s south campus in Fargo.

    Some of the employees, including a dedicated group of our customer service phone representatives, spend time every Friday during the spring, summer and fall doing yard work.

    This is just a sampling of some of the recent community service events and causes our employees have been involved with in their local communities.

    As a nonprofit North Dakota-based company, we truly care about helping our friends and neighbors, both at work, and afterwards.

    Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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    “We’re in the business of taking care of people”

    Those are the words of Cheryl Mikkelsen who, for 29 years, has been helping Bismarck area folks get the right health care coverage and use it effectively.

    Recently, while recording a BCBSND television commercial featuring Cheryl, she reflected on her long career, specifically how she connects with those she insures.

    “When one of my customers is going through a health crisis, I feel the weight of it … in fact, we all do.”

    The “we” Cheryl refers to is the customer care team that serves alongside her. She directed the camera crew to the BCBSND Customer Care Center to see the banner that hangs above them.

    Customer Care Banner

    “These aren’t just words to us. I know when I’m out selling these plans there’s a whole company that is going to keep the promises I make. I couldn’t do it otherwise.”

    See the television spot featuring Cheryl.

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    A look at the history that drives Midwest Motor Express

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    If you were a store keeper in Bismarck nearly a century ago, chances are you would have received freight deliveries from Snyder’s Dray and Transfer hauling. The mode of transportation was horses and wagons.

    When motorized vehicles hit the scene, the company upgraded and changed its name to Midwest Motor Express. That allowed it to expand its delivery routes and its employee base.

    In 1940, they took a chance on a young health insurance company known as Blue Cross to cover their employees and family.

    Today, Midwest Motor Express travels more than 10 million miles each year from Illinois to Oregon. On an average day, they have 155 semi trucks on the road bringing products from warehouses to many of your favorite stores across the country.

    And, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota insures approximately 1,300 Midwest Motor employees and family members. In 75 years, we’ve traveled a lot of miles together.


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    Tips to prevent back pain

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    If you’ve ever tweaked your back for a few days of discomfort or suffered long-term back pain, you know backaches also make it tough to concentrate, sleep and exercise (which just doesn’t seem fair since one of the best ways to prevent back pain is to work out).

    As many as 90 percent of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is a symptom, not a diagnosis itself. As with other pain, you should see your physician to find the cause of your backaches and get treatment guidance. You may have issues with the disks in your back, a spine injury as minor as a ligament tear or as major as a fractured vertebrae, or an acquired condition like scoliosis or arthritis.

    Your doctor may recommend certain exercises to keep your back healthy, depending on your back’s condition. These may include flexion exercises, extension exercises, stretches and aerobic exercise.

    Beyond exercise, here are some other tips to care for your back:

    • Eat right to lose or maintain a healthy weight, which helps you avoid putting unnecessary stress and strain on your back.
    • Get enough calcium and Vitamin D every day to help prevent osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about how much you need per day and how to get it, which may include multivitamins.
    • Stretch out before and after exercise.
    • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
    • Avoid smoking.

    Care for your spine with these tips, and if you do have backaches, see your health care provider to help beat back pain.

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    Turn in expired prescription drugs tomorrow

    9-24-15 prescription drug take back day blog photo ORIGINAL

    It’s that time of year again to check your medicine cabinets for expired, unused prescription drugs. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is supporting the nationwide prescription “Drug Take-Back Day” by encouraging North Dakotans to drop off their unwanted prescription drugs at a nearby collection site on Saturday, September 26, 2015.

    Local collection sites include the West Fargo Police Department and Moorhead Police Department.

    According to the CDC, deaths from prescription drug overdoses have reached epidemic levels in the U.S. Painkillers and other prescription medications are often found in home medicine cabinets, making it easy for them to get in the wrong hands.

    Take-Back Day participants will also help protect their local agriculture and water supply as all drugs collected will be disposed of properly by local law enforcement or DEA officials.

    According to the CDC, nonmedical use of prescription painkiller costs health insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct health care costs. BCBSND is committed to reducing the number of individuals who misuse, abuse or overdose from prescription drugs, while making sure that BCBSND members have access to safe and effective treatment.

    To find a collection site near you visit the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website and click on the link to find a location near you. For more information about Drug Take-Back Day, visit www.dea.gov. Take-Back day is free and anonymous.

    Andrea Dinneen is public relations manager of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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    Do I need to get vaccinated at my age?

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    Just like a good animated movie, vaccinations aren’t just for kids.

    Every year, more than 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable illnesses in the U.S. Millions more get sick or are hospitalized with illnesses we typically think are long gone.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend adult vaccinations for the following common preventable illnesses:

    • Chicken pox – once only if you were not immunized as a child
    • Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (Tdap) – every 10 years
    • Influenza – every year
    • Hepatitis A and/or B – administered based on previous health conditions, drug use and sexual history
    • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – up to age 26 and based on sexual history
    • Measles – ages 19-55
    • Shingles – 65 and older

    While you’re thinking about your vaccination status, it’s a good time to set up your annual physical. Because, like they say, “prevention is the best medicine.”

    Schedule your appointment today.

    Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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    Leg stretches you can do at your desk

    Many of us live sedentary lifestyles.

    Unfortunately, sitting too much can be hazardous to your health.

    Even though you may work at a desk, you can still move around during the day, or get up and stretch.

    Here are some quick microburst videos showing how you can stretch different parts of your body during short breaks at your desk. The complete 10-video playlist is available on our YouTube channel.

    We already shared some upper body stretches you can do at your desk. Here are some leg stretches you can do from your chair:

    Chair jog

    Mini squats

    Here are some more deskercises you can do at your desk.

    Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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