Embrace Friluftsliv — Norway’s Open-Air Living

Embrace Friluftsliv — Norway’s Open-Air Living
Photo: Alex from the Rock, Shutterstock

Look, we’re in this pandemic for the long haul. As much as we want everything to go back to “normal” in time for the holidays, what we actually need to do is buckle up for winter. And to keep our collective sanity, it’s time to embrace outdoor living in all seasons and at all temperatures.

While it was pretty easy to hike and camp, or simply get out for a neighbourhood walk during the spring and summer, it’s a lot harder to get motivated to go outside when it’s dark and cold.

Prepare Now for a Long Winter

Right now we’re navigating staycations and road trips. The parents and students among us are planning for those chaotic first few weeks of school, whether they be in-person or remote. But soon we’ll be in the thick of fall, and after fall comes winter. And COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere.

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Enter friluftsliv (free-loofts-liv), the Norwegian concept of open-air living no matter the weather. It involves a shift in your mindset around being outdoors, from dread of the cold to wonder at your environment and a willingness to engage with winter. Friluftsliv doesn’t require you to purchase gear or learn any new skills — it’s meant to be a minimalist form of outdoor recreation.

We know that time spent in nature has a largely positive impact on our mental health, which might explain why Norwegians are a whole lot happier than most. And in these COVID times, outside is really the only place to interact socially — which is also important for our well-being.

If you aren’t a “winter person” (yet), start slowly with friluftsliv:

  • Bundle up. A key part of being comfortable with the cold is being properly dressed. You don’t need any fancy gear, but layers are key.
  • Focus on the little things. Go for a walk around the block or have a picnic on your deck or socially distanced at a park.
  • Let kids play outside. Encourage kids to join in on winter fun.
  • Get out into nature. If you have trails nearby, continue to use them. Or if you’re into winter sports you can safely participate in, do more of that.
  • Leave your phone at home. This may not be an explicit requirement for friluftsliv, but disconnecting fits with the general ethos. Go outside for yourself, not for the ‘gram.

You can balance this out with hygge, the Danish idea of coziness that became a winter buzzword a few years ago. Like friluftsliv, hygge is less of a specific activity and more of an attitude of appreciation toward winter and the opportunities it offers. While hygge is interpreted as cozying up with a blanket and coffee in front of a fire, it also means embracing winter activities and finding joy in the little things.

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