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Friluftsliv [free - loofts - liv]


One of the many silver linings during this pandemic has been a renewed interest in being outdoors as a safe way to gather without spreading the virus. Americans have spent this summer picnicking, hiking, camping, and it’s little wonder; being outside is fun and good for the body, mind and soul. But for some parts of the country, the approaching winter presents a conundrum. After spending so much time outside using the outdoors as a safe way to congregate with family and friends, it could be difficult and lonely to go back to spending most of our time inside. That is unless the change of the seasons brings with it a change of beliefs around being outside regardless of the weather.

The Norwegian word friluftsliv, directly translated means open air living and has been a cultural concept in Norway long before the pandemic. In fact, for many Norwegians it is a way of life.

You may be familiar with the Norwegian phrase, “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” meaning if you don the proper clothing, the weather is not a factor in your outdoor plans. This can be true for us as we head into the winter months: if we dress for the weather, we can still enjoy congregating outdoors with family and friends.


Now is the time to think about what outdoor activities you can still enjoy in winter, and what clothing or gear you’ll need to accomplish that. The first step is deciding to commit to getting outside. Thinking back on this summer, make a mental list of outdoor activities you enjoyed and why. Did a good walk boost your mood? Did a picnic allow you to catch up with an old friend? Did you find peace of mind hiking versus watching tv?


The second step is figuring out what will get in the way of you doing that: are my boots warm enough, do I have proper gloves, or in my case, what will I come up with as an excuse for not going outside in the cold? (Haha!) For some people buying the right gear will be an economic hardship and I sympathize with that. But for most of us, getting suitable gear is attainable and doesn’t have to be expensive.


Finally, make your plans to get outside. Planning an outdoor activity with a friend brings some accountability for follow through. Starting small may help you get out there too. For starters plan a short walk, then slowly graduate to a longer hike, then a picnic; keep the food simple - everything tastes better outside. Make small adjustments along the way based on temperature such as adding another layer of clothing or adding toe warmers in your boots.


And don’t let the early sunset stop you. An evening walk can be a chance to see starry skies. Check out the app called “SkyView Lite“ that allows you to identify stars and planets and satellites (even the International Space Station) overhead.

As is often the case, adding some contrast to our day can boost our mood. Coming inside after a walk in the brisk air, we feel a sense of coziness (hygge!) and contentment not felt if we stay indoors too much. We gain appreciation for candlelight and warm toes.

A renewed commitment to being outside could benefit us physically, mentally and emotionally. In colder climates especially, friluftsliv may be just what we need to get through the winter.


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