Friluftsliv :: The Unpronounceable Scandinavian Word that Could Save Your Winter


Congratulations, Memphis! We made it through winter! That was one looong week.

I tease because, as a Midwesterner, I have lived in places so cold the hairs on inside of my nose have frozen, so I know it could be much worse. That said, our recent cold snap was legit, and it was much easier to huddle under a blanket (or seven) than to brave the elements. But since many of us in the Midsouth chose to enjoy the snow, my Scandinavian heritage wants to encourage you to keep the momentum going and get outside no matter the weather.

Enter the Nordic concept of Friluftsliv. Translated from Norwegian, it literally means “open air living.” Up in Scandinavia, if you don’t go outside when it’s cold, you don’t go outside. And I don’t know about you, but I am so much happier when I spend time outdoors.

The benefits to being outside are numerous. Fresh air is a natural mood enhancer, and practically speaking, these days, out of doors is the safest place to be. Not surprisingly, the largest spikes of COVID transmission have occurred when people have been stuck inside, either because it’s too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.

Anyone with kids knows that they literally bounce off the walls when cooped up inside for too long, and the best way to tire them out is to run them around outside. So many of the things modern parents worry about–screen time, too many or too few activities, positive social interactions–can be mitigated by playing outdoors.

And now during the pandemic with so few things to do and places to go, being outside has been a lifesaver to our family. Early on in quarantine, we went on daily sanity-saving walks around our neighborhood, and since parks have opened up again, we practically live at the one near our house. We try to incorporate outdoor adventures as often as we can, be it tromps through the woods or bike rides around town.

Our oldest daughter participates in a pod school, and one of the ways our group tries to reduce risk is by using our outdoor spaces religiously. The kids eat lunch and have recess outside every day, either in the backyard or on the covered porch. There are occasional complaints on bad weather days, but it has become so ingrained as part of the routine, that everyone knows that’s just what we do.

And that’s precisely what friluftsliv is: a way of life. Humans are incredibly adaptable and resilient–we’ve seen that time and again throughout this pandemic–and can get used to anything, so even if you don’t consider yourself an outdoorsy person, incorporating regular outside time is easier than you might think. Walking the dog, watering the plants, or going for a jog are all simple ways to live the friluftsliv lifestyle.

Memphis is fortunate to have a pretty temperate climate with (mostly) four seasons. If the weather is bad, you only have to wait a couple of days–or hours–for more favorable conditions. However, the saying goes that “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.” Even freezing temperatures can be bearable with the right gear.

Of course in Memphis, having top-of-the-line outerwear isn’t the most practical when it is used so infrequently, so if you can’t snag some hand-me-downs, I recommend layering. My husband teases me for it, but it’s not unusual for me to have four shirts on at a time during the winter months. My daughters have adopted this style as well, which I have dubbed “bag lady chic.”

Get creative. Use plastic bread bags over tennis shoes, wrap scarves around your legs, put latex gloves over knit ones. Function over fashion definitely applies in this situation. It will be warm–and then blazing hot–again before we know it.

Whatever you do and whatever you wear, get outside. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.

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Originally from Kansas City, Kristin met her husband, a Seattle native, in Germany. The military brought them to Memphis, and they chose to stay after transitioning to Reserve duty. While it is hard to be away from family, they love this city so much that they bought a house in Midtown where they are raising two spunky daughters, E (May 2013) and L (January 2016), and a curious son E (November 2019). Kristin considers herself to be primarily a stay-at-home mom, but she occasionally escapes the shenanigans to teach college-level writing classes. If she had any spare time, she’d spend it curled up with a good book in a blissful state of hygge. Her family is happiest when on an adventure, especially camping, riding bikes, or enjoying all Memphis has to offer.