Making the most of the winter you have
Picture of author
Amanda Unrau
2 children dressed in red coats walk along a snowy trail

"There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes"

This common Scandinavian phrase is used by parents use to encourage their children to spend time outside every day.

Unfortunately, in many areas of the United States during the winter, the opposite happens. When the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall, many families gear up to spend yet another season indoors.

Friluftsliv, pronounced "free-loofs-leaf", is a term used by the Scandinavian people to summarize the way they live their life. This concept was coined in the 1850s by Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright and poet.

Meaning “open-air-living,” friluftsliv illustrates the way the Nordic people embrace the outdoors and spend time in nature, no matter the weather.

In Scandinavian countries, taking time to relax in nature is a way that people maintain work-life balance. It is such a part of their culture that some companies have built it into their workplace policies, offering flexible hours and allowing employees to take long lunch breaks outside.

During the pandemic, when people worldwide were stuck at home due to the lockdown, many were looking for a way to get out. Parks and trails were more crowded, and campgrounds were fully booked. Demand for friluftsliv increased.

For many who find winter to be long, dark, and dreary, accepting the idea of friluftsliv can change your outlook and provide many benefits. Getting exercise outside may minimize symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and reduce mental sluggishness. It separates you from the stress of daily life and boosts your mood.

Those of us who live in places with a severe winter climate can learn a lot from the Scandinavian people and outlook. Their winters are especially long and dark.

How can we embrace the friluftsliv culture? It involves a change in mindset.

Make it a point to get outside every day of the year. Once you commit to it, you may really enjoy it.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. A simple way to begin is to consider the indoor-outdoor connection and ways you can improve your view. Remove curtains on windows or tie them back. Think about switching to sheer drapes to let in more light. This helps you view nature, and in turn, feel more connected to it.

  2. Create a backyard oasis. Spruce up your outdoor space and you will feel more encouraged to spend time in your yard. Add some cozy amenities such as a fire pit, deck, covered porch, or couches with cushions and blankets. You can even add some space heaters to make things more comfortable. Hang some twinkle lights for ambience.

  3. To ease into increasing your time outside during the cold winter months, plan to get outside during peak daylight hours. In winter there is less sunlight, making mornings and evenings dark and less motivating. Try to make a point to step outdoors at midday or in the afternoon. This will also increase your chances of vitamin D exposure, which is a crucial nutrient that is often lacking in the winter.

  4. Take your workout outside. Instead of going to a gym, take up some seasonal activities. Try snowshoeing, skiing (downhill or cross country), or ice skating. Once you own the equipment, most of these activities are free or cheap. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can often find used equipment at second hand stores or garage sales.

  5. Invest in some proper clothing. As the saying goes, while bad weather may not exist, bad clothing does. Poor clothing is one of the main reasons people tend to hibernate in the winter. Make sure you and all family members have sufficient warm inner and outer layers. Make sure your gear is water resistant so that you aren’t impeded by rain or dampness.

  6. Go cold weather camping. If you aren’t quite ready to rough it in a tent in cool temperatures, rent a mountain or lakeside cabin.

  7. Have a winter bonfire. Round up some blankets and snacks, and snuggle up around the fire. You don’t have to wait until evening, which is the coldest part of the day. Have a lunch picnic outside around the fire!

  8. Meet up with friends or family. Winter is already isolating, as the weather makes travel more difficult and there are fewer outdoor activities. Combat the isolation by having friends join you on your outdoor adventures. Get the entire family out to build a snow fort or take a walk. Knowing you are doing it with others is a great incentive to get out in nature.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to fully embrace the Nordic friluftsliv lifestyle, at whatever level you feel comfortable. You can even work your way up from enjoying the beauty of the snow through your windows to hitting the slopes.

So what do you think? Can you make it outside every day this winter? Think of how refreshing it will feel to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa after a brisk winter walk. If you need some accountability, tell us here!

What is your favorite way to spend time outdoors in the winter? Are you going to try something on our list? What would you add to the list? Let us know!