A Nordic Idea Can Help Us Get Through the Winter

One of America’s greatest strengths is that we are the great melting pot! Ever since the U.S. was founded, it has been a place where people could come together to share their cultures and beliefs to make ourselves a strong, amazing country of unity. We take the best of each other’s nations and create one fantastic life.

This year has been challenging. Our country has been torn apart by sadness, stress and a pandemic that has kept us apart and away from loved ones. And it’s only becoming harder as we enter the holidays. Yes, wonderfully, the news of vaccines has given so many of us amazing comfort: there is an end in sight. We will hug our families again. We will see our grandchildren open birthday presents in person instead of through videos. But we won’t be doing that in time for Christmas or any other winter holiday.

So, we have been looking at other cultures’ traditions to find comfort, coping methods to help us through these tough times. It’s odd to our team. We’ve always been a health and wellness blog that focused on things like sleep, wellness, busting myths and helping your diet. But 2020 made us adapt. We evolved to help our customers, to help fit your health needs. The news isn’t written just for practical advice and comfort, which is what we’ve aimed for. We hope we have been a bright spot!

We have looked to other countries for help. They have coping methods, and we want and the help we can get! We looked at how the Danish cozy feeling of hygge could be attained in warm weather without spending money. We explored the Dutch idea of uitaaien and walking around in the wind to blow away your negative feelings. Now, we are looking at the Nordic concept of friluftsliv. We think it is absolutely perfect for the COVID-19 world where we are staying away from other people as much as possible.  

Friluftsliv is the idea of being outside as much as possible without any purpose. You don’t go out for exercise. You don’t go out for company. You simply go out instead of being inside all the time. In Scandinavia, people stay outside in the cold dark parts of the winter just as much as they do in the summer. Whereas we head inside to avoid the cold weather, they embrace it!

You also have the long dark winter, famously, in Scandinavia, and I think [Norway’s COVID-19 response and friluftsliv are] related in that way,” Prof. Andy Meyer said. He teaches Scandinavian Studies and the Univ. of Washington. “You have already this sense of, there’s going to be a period every year where it’s going to be hard to be happy, where… the everyday life of doing the things you like to do is sort of interrupted for a time, under normal circumstances, by the changing of the season and the loss of daylight, and the cold that comes with it.”

Norway’s kindergartens are outside, and children are told, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” It’s time to bundle up or put on a raincoat — not head inside! They play and learn outside. This year where we can’t gather indoors, we need to learn from these kids who spend time together outdoors.

And you can practice friluftsliv by yourself as well as with others, just walking and being alone without purpose. You don’t have to be hiking or bird watching, you can just go for a walk to nowhere interesting at all, just for the sake of being outside. It can give you just a little while of peace and privacy that feels very rewarding when you are still in civilization but on your own, doing your own thing — nothing at all. Prof. Meyer shared a story about practicing friluftsliv by walking through a city just to figure out what a blinking light he could see from his home was. The light didn’t bother him; it made no impact; he was just curious. So, he bundled up and set out in the dark to find out with a few friends. Eventually, they found a distant traffic light that lined up with his home, far enough away to be not quite distinguishable from his house. It was a pointless quest but a pleasant outing on a cold night.
The concept of hygge being cozy, and friluftsliv being outdoors solitude, are almost flip sides of the same coin. Leslie Anderson, director of collections, exhibitions and programs at the National Nordic Museum, said, “It’s about finding contentment… you can see a kind of shared fondness for both spaces and an approach to life where you have designated a space and a way of living with time to recharge.”

We suggest borrowing traditions from as many cultures as possible to get through these odd times. Mix and match to your heart’s desire! When things calm down, you may have new healthy routines you stick to and enjoy, like walks to nowhere!

Banner image: Craig Whitehead via Unsplash
November 20, 2020

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