Do you love snuggling up by the fire on a cold day, but shudder at the thought of spending a winter's day outdoors? Well, you may be missing out!
Especially this year, going outside can be the best way to spend time with family and friends since COVID spreads more rapidly indoors. Josie Ortega shares reasons why she loves spending time outside in winter and her inspiration to get the family to embrace being outside every day.
Denmark and the Hygge Lifestyle
Several years ago, I took the opportunity to visit friends in Denmark and learned about the now-trendy concept of hygge (pronounced hue-guh). Though there’s no perfect translation in English, “cozy” partially captures the meaning. But it’s also about the enjoyment of simple things. Candles, hot chocolate, conversations with friends. Or binge-watching a great show alone! Appreciating and savoring the simple pleasures—that’s the outlook that enables the Danes to survive the long, dark, cold winter filled with ice and snow.
In addition to the general hygge attitude, I took away several Danish-inspired home ideas to ponder: minimalist décor, using tons of candles (unscented, so as not to interfere with your flavors while eating), and nixing the top sheet. The Scandinavians typically sleep on a fitted sheet with just a fluffy down comforter. Hygge to the max. Upon my return to the States, I even bought a French press and put away our coffee maker — tastier coffee, no counter space needed.
All these ideas are worth trying out. But I contend the most important and applicable lifestyle concept from our Northern neighbors is this: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” In other words: Go outside anyway.
Benefits of an Outdoor Lifestyle
There are plenty of reasons why to go outside regularly, even in winter.
When I visited in October, all the Copenhagen restaurants and cafes still had their outdoor seating available. Babies slept outside shops, parked in their bassinet strollers, bundled up, apparently enjoying the fresh air.
In fact, going outside has always helped my own kids. I remember visiting my parents during witching hour with very young children. Grandpa would eat dinner quickly, then take Baby outside to hike around and say hello to the dog, leaving the rest of us to enjoy our meal in relative peace. It was uncanny; the fussy baby calmed right away.
For adults, researchers have demonstrated that walking through the woods improves mood, decreases depression, and offers a host of other health benefits. It’s possible that even looking at a tree can make us healthier, lower stress, and improve our mental stamina and brain health. What more reasons do you need for spending time outdoors!
This embrace of the outdoors, whatever the weather or season, enhances the enjoyment of the cozy hygge lifestyle—maybe even makes cozy possible. Think about it. I often feel chilly in my house when I haven’t been outside for a while. But, if I’m returning home and open the door after being in the ice and snow, it feels like a warm embrace.
If you’ve taken a long hike after your Thanksgiving feast, or if the family all go outside to run around and test their new scooters and toys on the cold weather of Christmas afternoon, you know the feeling.
If you’ve ever luxuriated in a warm down comforter while surrounded by the cool temperature of outside air, you know.
At our latitude, winter does not seem as dire as it is in the Nordic countries. Even so, plenty of us are familiar with the experience of seasonal blues. During the short days, it’s more important than ever to enjoy the benefits of getting outside, even if there's snow.
How Will You Get Outside This Winter?
As the saying suggests—No bad weather, just bad clothes—we’ve got to gather the proper equipment. Order the socks and gloves in bulk. Buy long underwear or even snow pants. Find a winter coat that will last during all the cold weather months– maybe even next year. (Check at local consignment shops, mom groups, and Buy Nothing groups!)
Make a plan. When will you get outside? For my family, it makes sense for us to resolve to continue to walk home from school in the afternoons—come what may this winter! We have boots and umbrellas. We have the right clothes! (See above.)
For another family, this might look like bundling up for the daily walk down the long driveway to check the mailbox. In the heat of summer, it made sense for daily outdoor playtime or chores to happen immediately after breakfast. In the cold of winter, midday play will be our best bet.
Host a bonfire! Challenge the kids to a soccer game in the snow! Or just give them some yard work.
I’ll tell you, it’s delightful to cook dinner while my kids run around outside, out of my hair. And, when I get out and enjoy the cold air—even though suiting up in layers feels like a hassle—I’m always glad I did. Then, when we all come inside and snuggle up, the hot chocolate tastes even more delicious, guaranteed.
What’s your plan to get outside in spite of the dreary cold this winter?