Friluftsliv! No, that is not a spelling mistake. Nor does it refer to a sneeze.


This year more than any, Friluftsliv (pronounced "free-luftz-leev") may hold the key to our experience of winter.


Going into our eighth month of pandemic living, I am not the only one who has begun to feel the coming of winter, looming in the shadows of darkness, just waiting to engulf us in its cold and prickly arms.


After being confined indoors these past few months, many of us have taken solace in the fact that we could get outdoors during the nicer weather, to take walks, go on bike rides, return to many of the things that get pushed to the sidelines in the name of a "busy life". But with the winter approaching, we have a tendency to shiver at the possibility of either being REALLY confined to the indoors, or having to head out into the cold, when we REALLY hate the cold.


But what if there was a way we could shift our perspective about the coming months, away from it being this 800lb monster that is going to sit on and crush us until April, and towards an 800lb not-so-scary monster? Maybe one we could hitch a ride from, and gallop through the months with, perhaps even letting out a little exclamation of excitement and exhilaration?


"Yahooooo!"


Sound impossible?? I thought so too (especially not being a "cold weather" kind of person). UNTIL I heard about Friluftsliv.


Friluftsliv is a Norwegian word that literally translates into "open-air living", and it is used describe the physical well-being and spiritual well-being that is gained from experiencing the outdoors year-round. That includes the winter.


By incorporating the outdoors into the every day life, whether it be in a simple walk, building a snowman, outdoor activities like skating or hiking or skiing, or just by opening a window and breathing in a few breaths of fresh air, Friluftsliv embraces everything our outdoor world has to offer - the sights, the sounds, and yes, the temperatures.


And while this all may sound pretty darn lovely in principle, it can be hard to put the Frilutftsliv philosophy into practice, especially when it comes to city living. So here are a few tips for incorporating a little Friluftsliv into your life:



  1. Begin by actively noticing the outdoors (even if it just begins from looking out a window). Listen to the sounds. Notice the colours. Be curious about what you are seeing: "Where did those leaves fall from? How does that squirrel get through the winter? Which direction are the clouds moving? Where is the moon in the sky today compared to yesterday?" If you are outside, continue that curiosity: "What sounds am I hearing? What makes the temperature change? How does the cold feel on my face? What does the warmth of my own body feel like? Why does a tree look a certain way?" Once we develop a curiosity about our outdoor surroundings, the more inclined we may be to go outside, ask some more questions, and maybe even find some answers.

2. Start small. You do not need to go outside on an hour long trek at the beginning. Set achievable goals. Maybe you start by walking just a tiny bit slower when you are getting out of your car and walking into a grocery store. Maybe you make a tiny snowman that only takes a few minutes? Maybe you take an extra second to admire and study the snowflakes that have landed on your shoulder? Take a short few moments to notice the differences in the outdoors. And then slowly expand from there.


3. Invest in proper clothing. Though this doesn't mean you need all of the "best" gear! It may mean picking up an extra sweater and pair of socks, so that you can layer what you already have, and stay toasty that way. It may mean knitting a warm toque and lining it with some fleece to keep your noggin extra warm. Make a scarf with any extra fabric you have lying around the house (old sweatshirts or soft towels can do the trick!). Or buy a few items if you feel comfortable doing so. Either way, no matter how you do it, figure out a way to dress appropriately (read: in a way that you will stay warm!) when you head outside. There is a saying that goes: "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing preparation".


4. Perhaps the most important piece is to start shifting the thoughts in your mind, from negative to positive. The power of thought has a huge impact in our day-to-day lives, including in our behaviour/actions. Thinking about how cold it is outside, how miserable it will be, how long it is going to take us to get ready, how dark it is outside, and how tired we are, is perfect for Friluftsliv Failure. Instead, try shifting your thoughts towards a more positive and value-oriented outlook. Think about the things that can be gained from going outside: a) not being inside anymore! b) breathing some fresh air c) maybe seeing some other humans d) getting some exercise, etc. Also try to tap into the greater experience of life - Why not experience what earth has to offer? Why not experience all of the weather in all of its temperatures? After all, being on this planet is a gift. Why not make the most of it? Think about whatever it is that will get you outside, and go with it!


5. Lastly - When you do make it outdoors, pay attention to the value you've gained from doing so. Do you feel better? Why do you feel better? What did you enjoy most about being outside? Once you start to notice the benefits of Frilutftsliv in your life, the easier it will become to implement.



So instead of seeing this years winter as being something bone-chilling and spirit-crushing, try adopting the Frilutftsliv spirit. Take the cold in stride, take the time to notice the beauty that exists only during the winter months, take stock of the benefits of the outdoors, and face it head-on with as much energy and optimism as possible. If it helps to image yourself riding on the back of the 800lb monster, realizing that it's actually kind of soft and beautiful and exhilarating, and maybe, just maybe, you might let out a little whoop of excitement with a tiny, little grin on your face.... then do that.


Frilutftsliv my friends. Frilutftsliv.

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© 2019 Trish Stephens, Psychotherapist - Ottawa, Canada