It's only January.
This is what people keep saying, gently reminding me that there are at least three more winter months to go in New England. I'm not a stranger to cold winters. In fact, growing up in Connecticut gave me good wintry skin against the January days that we're seeing in Boston today. But what varies now is how I interact with the cold.
As a kid, we'd play outside for hours - rain, snow or shine. In high school, if it was above fifteen degrees, we'd go for a run, bearing elements and ice. Now, when the sun rises late, and sets before five, there are days when my interaction with fresh air and daylight can be minimal. While heading to the gym can help generate an internal warmth, there's something else that can help even more - getting outside.
You've likely read stories or even experienced the concept of Friluftsliv, a Norwegian term that translates to "free air life." It's about finding a natural rhythm in natural life, and in many Scandinavian countries, it's simply part of the lifestyle that values connection to the outdoors - regardless of season or temperature. Visit Norway explains that Friluftsliv "offers the possibility of recreation, rejuvenation and restoring balance among living things."
Spending time outdoors gives you a good overall health boost as well. It helps you take a break from the airborne germs and viruses that ramp up indoors in the winter, and can elevate your mood, self-esteem and sense of well-being. It can also benefit our long-term functional health as we age, so it shouldn't be a surprise that on the days that we walk the two miles home from work, I feel healthier, more centered and energized.
So here's a challenge: get outside for an extra twenty minutes every day next week.
Go for a winter hike. Trudge through the snow to a park and take ten good full-belly breaths of brisk air. Or, practice Frilufstliv in it's simplest form and go for a walk - at lunchtime to get some natural light, or in the evening to walk home from work. This may be easier said than done, but it's a simple way to ensure that you get a good dose of fresh air on the days that you might otherwise not.