Combat winter blues with friluftsliv, the Nordic tradition of being outside

Nov 15, 2022, 5:04 AM | Updated: 9:10 am


(Aaron Burden/Unsplash)

(Aaron Burden/Unsplash)

You may be familiar with hygge, the Danish and Norwegian art of being cozy. Consciously combating the winter blues with crackling fires, having friends over for tea and cake, and snuggling up in cozy clothes. But there’s a Nordic tradition that’s often practiced before hygge called friluftsliv.

“The Swedish government defines it as ‘spending time outside for personal wellness and to experience nature without pressure or to achieve or compete,'” said Linda Akeson McGurk, author of the new book, “The Open Air Life: Discover the Nordic Art of Friluftsliv and Embrace Nature Every Day.”

Seattle sperm bank in desperate need of Black donors

Friluftsliv is part of the culture in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark. Places that are darker and colder than Seattle in winter, but where people don’t experience seasonal depression like we do.

“The essence of friluftsliv is that it’s important to be outside in every season, and to find something to love in every season, because the benefits of being outside don’t end just because it’s dark and cold outside,” said McGurk. “You need it more than ever.”

You simply adjust, dressing warmly and waterproofing for the weather, bringing a flashlight when it’s dark.

“I always come back inside more alert, more focused, and just feeling that my spirits have been lifted,” said McGurk. “Sometimes, when the weather is rough, you come back inside and it actually helps foster gratitude. I think because you appreciate the warmth and comfort of home a lot more when you’ve been out there. So I think a lot of times the beauty is in that contrast.”

She says the best time to get outside is before 10 a.m. The sunlight in the morning is good for your circadian rhythm and actually helps you sleep at night. And at work, where many of us sit for much of the day, she recommends breaking up the day with walking meetings.

“Especially for creative sessions, like brainstorming sessions, being outside can really help spark people’s creativity,” McGurk said. “A lot of people feel like you’re on a more level playing field, regardless of your title or role in the company. It’s just easier to talk when you’re walking side by side rather than facing each other over a big conference table.”

More from Rachel Belle: Most Americans hate small talk, but Seattleites continue talking about weather

And if you want to take friluftsliv to the next level, remove any barriers between yourself and nature.

“I do try to do barefoot walking as often as I can,” McGurk said. “It’s just a great way to stimulate nerve endings in your feet and it’s relaxing. Feet are not made for being squished into shoes.”

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal.” Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

Rachel Belle

Rachel Belle...

Rachel Belle

Belle: This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later

After 20 years in news radio, I'm leaving my post at KIRO Newsradio to focus on making my podcast "Your Last Meal" full-time!

11 months ago

emily post etiquette...

Rachel Belle

Emily Post’s “Etiquette” goes modern: Advice on pronouns, hugging

In 1922, Emily Post published her very first etiquette book. Since then, 18 editions have been published by five generations of Posts.

11 months ago

small talk...

Rachel Belle

Most Americans hate small talk, but Seattleites continue talking about weather

Out of 1,000 people surveyed, 71% said they prefer silence to small talk and 89% of Gen Z use their phones to avoid making small talk.

11 months ago

(Igordoon Primus/Unsplash)...

Rachel Belle

Seattle sperm bank in desperate need of Black donors

Only 2% of American sperm donors are Black men, which is causing a lot of heartache for women specifically looking for a Black donor. 

11 months ago

Photo courtesy of Rosie Grant...

Rachel Belle

Woman cooking recipes engraved on gravestones says they’re all ‘to die for’

You know that recipe your family requests at every holiday, potluck and birthday party? What if you had it engraved on your tombstone?

11 months ago

cold water...

Rachel Belle

Seattle’s year-round cold water swimmers say the practice is mood lifting and life changing

The latest health trend? Cold water swimming and cold plunging into icy baths, with devotees swearing by the health benefits. 

11 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Combat winter blues with friluftsliv, the Nordic tradition of being outside