Wow, is it easy to be glum these days. With winter approaching, full of dire predictions of virus and flu germs on the march, I find myself creating a mental list of “cannots.” Can’t go out to lunch with friends. Can’t go to the movies. Can’t fly to California to visit my sister. Some days I need a real attitude adjustment!
Fortunately, I usually remember to pull up a couple of bookmarked sites that describe cultural approaches to life from two of the happiest countries in the world: Denmark and Norway. Reviewing these posts helps me put life in 2020 in perspective. Let me describe these concepts from Scandanavia that are helping me reframe my upcoming winter from one of possible isolation and self-pity to a healthy and happy embrace of glorious snowstorms and frigid temps. That last sentence may sound a bit Pollyanish, however, I do feel integrating the attitudes and actions of hygge and friluftsliv into my daily routines will lead to a positive mindset.
- Originates in Denmark, but is adopted by other countries.
- Often translated as “cozy.”
- Features daily routines that bring a sense of warmth, coziness, and well being.
- Taking time to slow down to appreciate and enjoy the moment–whether it be the stars on a cold winter’s night or the crackling flames and warmth from a wood stove.
- Enjoying rituals.
- Originates in Norway.
- Means “Free Air Life.”
- Interacting with nature in positive ways.
- Used in a poem by Henrick Ibsen in 1859 called “Paa Vidderne” (“On the Heights”).
In the lonely seter cottage
My abundant catch I gather;
There is hearth, a stool, a table,
friluftsliv for my thoughts.
- Leaving the sedentary life behind in your comfy recliner!
Hot chocolate treat
Hygge is not difficult for me to embrace. A fleece throw, a good book, my pooch in my lap, and I am both content and cozy. Add a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream, and I won’t feel the need to move for hours. However, I think hygge means more than just feeling cozy nestled in a comfy chair. It is more about an attitude expressed in this quote from Thornton Wilder.
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
Perhaps, we can reimage our pre-COVID rituals so that we still connect with family and friends to enjoy the simple moments of our lives:
- Instead of lunch out with friends, it’s a weekly Zoom get-together over coffee and tea.
- Garages with electric heaters and everyone in layers become the new patio meet and greet. Of course, for those of you in Florida and Arizona, outdoor meetings are still enjoyable in your shorts and flipflops (-:
- Take a news “fast” for a week and watch shows online and tv stations that are upbeat. My Octopus Teacher on Netflix is supposed to be outstanding. Have you ever explored Create TV–everything from travelogues to woodworking to cooking shows? Invite a friend or grandchild to view the same show at their home and then have a text discussion as you watch together, separately.
- Learn something new. Take a course (with a friend) from BoomerTECH Adventures.
- Really look up at the sky at night to find those constellations we studied as kids. The Big Dipper is easy to spot, but can you find Orion’s Belt?
- Share virtual tours of your holiday decorations with friends or cook up a new recipe with a friend via video conferencing (FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Meet).
- Open the door during the first big snowfall, and just listen.
- Bring greenery and flowering plants into your home.
African violets brightening up my kitchen window–even learning to propagate them from cuttings!
I know when I get off social media and just watch the birds outside my window or look at the pictures from a past vacation or try recreating a recipe I saw on The Great British Baking Show that I smile more, and my blood pressure drops about 40 points. I am content and not glum.
BoomerTECH Adventures colleague Chris and friends enjoying the “free air life” of friluftsliv.
Now, friluftsliv… that’s a bit more of a challenge for me because I do so love my oversized, dark red recliner and a good mystery. However, I have read 550 articles on the benefits of exercise, especially as we age. You all know the benefits of staying fit as well: less disease, diminishing the chances of dementia, lower blood pressure, happier moods, and so on.
For some folks, the “free air life” comes naturally, even in winter. They ski, they winter hike, they snowshoe, and some even winter camp! A big snow dumper means revving up the snowblower and defeating the elements. Or as colleague Chris Toy calls shoveling–snow cardio.
I know I feel better and sleep more soundly when I spend more time outdoors. My mental health is better too! If you need some evidence on the power of nature, here’s a video about wilderness therapy for veterans. I think you will enjoy it: https://www.facebook.com/freethinkmedia/videos/3869004303123549
The key to friluftsliv is to dress appropriately!
I recently read a great article (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/04/parenting/kids-winter-play-outside.html) about having kids safely play outdoors in the winter. I thought the advice applied to Boomers and Seniors as well. It’s all about dressing appropriately:
- Hands, head, heart, and feet kept warm.
- Layer up with wool and synthetics. Don’t wear cotton or jeans.
- Wear the type of mittens that have long cuffs that go over your jacket sleeves to seal in the heat and keep out the wet.
- Choose waterproof boots with wool or fleece liners.
- Plop on a good hat that covers your ears.
Even Sammy knows to dress appropriately for a winter outing.
In addition, when out on a winter expedition, create a fun task to complete. Find 15 different birds or create a scavenger hunt or take photographs that emphasize shadows on the snow. There is an entire Facebook group that ventures out to capture images of the elusive Snowy Owl.
If you are somewhere warm, please avoid snakes, tarantulas, and alligators.
With apologies to my cousin, Scott. Just had to play with the image.
I think another good idea is to take along some hot drinks. Here’s another helpful article that provides some yummy recipes. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/nov/11/beat-the-cold-17-delicious-piping-hot-drinks-to-put-in-your-flask-for-long-winter-walks
How about planning a winter picnic at your local state park and filling up a wide-mouth thermos with BoomerTECH Adventures colleague Chris’s Quick Peanut Sriracha Ramen soup? It’s sure to warm you up.
I don’t know about you, but for me, there are two challenges to fully embracing friluftsliv. Number one, I am now at the age where falling on ice is scary. A broken hip can easily lead to major health issues. Fortunately, I think I have mostly solved this problem. Grippers! I have a pair of insulated hiking boots which I have designated as full-time grippers. These little spikes certainly help me keep my balance, especially when I pair them with hiking sticks.
The second issue is more problematic for me. I have never enjoyed going off on my own for hikes or trips. I love to share experiences with friends and family. This winter, family is far away and many friends now have knee, ankle, and foot problems that preclude doing very much outside activity. I must learn to embrace solitude in the outdoors. So… the challenge I have set for myself is two-fold:
- Before I sit down in the dark red recliner in the morning (from which I might not get up from for several hours as I read the news and check social media), I am going for a walk–bundled up in layers and my grippers on when necessary.
- I am going to get my snowshoes out and actually use them this winter.
I want to see rosy cheeks more often this year than I have in the recent past!
If you can’t get outside, it is still possible to embrace an active life by exercising indoors. Do you know about Silver Sneakers? Usually, their classes are held indoors, however, that has become more difficult this year. The good news is that they have both a YouTube channel and a Facebook page with free exercise videos designed to keep us flexible, well balanced, and strong. Check them out:
Hygge and friluftsliv, two concepts to help all of us stay healthy and content this winter–despite COVID, are worth investigating!
P.S. An article that seems very “friluftsliv” to me was in the paper this morning. https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2020/11/15/outdoor-dining-cold-advice/
The magic of friluftsliv–discovering ice caves on Merrymeeting Bay