How embracing winter in Ireland can help change our perceptions and have a positive impact on our daily lives.
As Winter draws in the concept of being outside might seem outlandish. But braving the outdoors in all conditions, known as friluftsliv in Norway is a lifestyle choice that could benefit us all during the pandemic.
If the first lockdown has taught us anything it’s being in nature is not only enjoyable, but necessary. The winter months generally mean more indoor living. But amid the pandemic, adopting the Norwegian way of life can help change our experience of winter and how we view the colder, wetter months.
‘Nature’ is considered any greenspace, in a city or the countryside. Taking time to visit parks, gardens, or nature walks in your local area can have significant benefits on overall health. Studies have found that living close to greenspaces helps with energy, mood, sleep and can reduce stress.
Outside living has a range of benefits for our kids. They can interact more with natural surroundings; green areas offer the ideal opportunity for children’s imagination to run wild. The exercise benefits are obvious. And a range of senses are being stimulated. The benefit of which is a fully, richer human experience. More time inside generally means more screen time for lots of households. Recent studies found that children under the age of 2 spend an average of 1 hour 15 minutes every day on screens, 3-9-year-olds spend an average of 1 hour 45 mins in front of screens during the week, which increases to between 2.5 and 3 hours at the weekends. For 10-12-year-olds the weekday average was almost 2 hours. The long-term impact of screens is unknown but reducing the amount of time in front of any device can’t be a bad thing. The HSE recommend leading by example. Putting phones away, turning screens off, wrapping up, and going outside adds variety to the day, helps with development, sleep patterns, improved concentration, and has restorative benefits (for kids and adults alike).
You don’t need to plan an excursion up Croagh Patrick in the blustery wind and rain to start practicing the Norwegian way of life. You don’t even need to leave your area. Starting small with a brisk walk on a not so pleasant day, or taking the kids outside for a picnic, layered in their cosy hats and scarves all help with shifting mindsets (Sonny Bear’s cashmere rompers, scarves, and jumpers are excellent for warmth under jackets). Winter, just like any season, has the potential to be enjoyed. If that seems impossible, start with the small things, like how nice it is to feel cosy when dressed up and outside in the beauty of a clear, crisp day.
Friluftsliv is about using every opportunity to be outside and embracing the weather. During the pandemic, nature can offer solace, and help us reconnect with the beauty that is often overlooked. It’s about regaining a sense of wonder and making the most of every day. This won’t always seem easy, but it can make the next few months feel a little less daunting.
Norway is one of the happiest countries in the world and according to Stanford University health psychologist Kari Leibowitz its “positive wintertime mindset” has a part to play in this. Looking after our well-being has never been more important, rather than looking at the next few months as something we need to face into; taking stock, appreciating whatever green space we have available to us, dressing in our warmest clothes, and paying attention to the elements — we can start our own friluftsliv.