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How to Thrive in Winter 2021: Recommendations from Outside/In

Courtesy Photo
Lido the puppy learns about snow

The Outside/In team offers suggestions for a happy and healthy winter 2021, inspired by two Norwegian concepts: friluftsliv, or embracing the outdoors with open-air living; and koselig, getting as cozy as possible.

For many of us during this pandemic year, the dark and cold of winter brings a special sense of dread. But it’s not just 2020: the seasonal darkness often collectively takes us by surprise. Like clockwork, we forget how dark and cold it gets - and it turns out, there are reasons for that.

But our perception of the seasonal darkness can also be influenced by our approach to it.

The Outside/In winter fund drive is nearly over, and we’re almost to our goal of 100 donors! Visit outsideinradio.org/donate to support the show - and vote on the topic of a potential bonus episode if we reach our goal.

In Norway, cultural ideas around winter help shape attitudes and experiences of the cold.

First, there’s the idea of getting cozy, or koselig. Think candles, slippers, the glow of a fire in the window on a snowy night, eating wood-fired pizza under the stars, or “the smell of baked goods and the Christmas tree,” said Anders Folleras, college friend of Sam Evans-Brown and honorary Outside/In Norwegian cultural attaché. 

Koselig is the Norwegian analogue of the Danish idea of hygge. But there’s another concept that goes hand-in-hand with koselig: friluftsliv.

“Being outdoorsy, I’d say,” said Folleras. “Outdoor lifestyle.”

Embracing friluftsliv means open-air living, or getting outside every day, and outdoor adventures for all ages.

So, we think: if you really want to get koselig, you’ve gotta get friluftsliv too. 

Embracing the Outdoors: Outside/In Friluftsliv Recommendations


Dress for the temperature. We like the saying, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” For instance, as dogsledder Blair Braverman tweeted, if you’re aiming for warmth, don’t look for “sleek” coats. Embrace the puff!

Credit Sam Evans-Brown
A demonstration of friluftsliv

Layer up. Keep breathable layers closest to the skin, less permeable layers on the outside.

Experiment and get to know the cold. Figure out what works for you. What’s your circulation like? Do you need hand warmers in your gloves? Two pairs of socks? Sam’s recommendations for how to dress are really just encouragement that you can get outside when it’s really cold and wintery, and once you experiment with it, you’ll see that it’s possible.

Getting a little chilly is not the end of the world. Yes, there’s a limit to this, but it’s empowering to learn the way your body works, how you respond to the cold, and what your limits are.

Set a goal. Pick an area, like your town or a neighboring preserve, and set a goal to walk all the trails on the map - a strategy also, unfortunately, known as redlining. It took a few years, but [Outside/In's Executive Producer] Erika visited all 270 parks in Madison, Wisconsin using this approach. At the beginning of the pandemic, Sam decided to visit his neighboring beaver pond every day.

Take it one step at a time. Winter adventuring takes time and cold-weather gear costs money. If you’re on a budget, buy one piece of gear a year - or thrift it! - and work up to more ambitious excursions over time.

Bring a thermos. A hot drink makes everything better. 

An example of a hot drink making everything better.

Snowy night walks. Magical! Especially after a storm.


Screen-Time: Outside/In Koselig Recommendations

The latest season of The Crown has some serious Outside/In moments, especially in episode two, “The Balmoral Test.” The episode ties into themes we explored in “Fortress Conservation'' about how elitism pervaded 20th century conservation. In my opinion, you don’t need to have watched the rest of the show to enjoy the latest season. - Justine

Alien Worlds on Netflix is a really cool mix of speculative science fiction and nature documentary. The basis of the show is that scientists have been searching for “Goldilocks exoplanets” for decades now, so how would different biological concepts play out under different Earth-like conditions? So, for example, the first episode explores what life might look like on a planet with two times Earth's gravity… the extra gravity makes the air in the atmosphere really dense, so it operates more like water. So there are these animals that they call “sky grazers” that are basically swimming through the atmosphere, eating floating seeds. - Taylor

Occupied, a Norwegian climate change political thriller set in the near future. For me, part of the fun of watching foreign language shows is I have to read the subtitles. It's one of the only times that I can’t multitask, and in some ways that feels relaxing. - Erika

The Expanse, a sci-fi show set in a future in which humans have colonized the solar system. It’s pure escapism. They do the physics of space really well - for instance, because they’re on ships, the gravity makes liquids behave kind of strangely. There’s this scene where a character pours a shot of whiskey and it does this little spiral out of the bottle into the glass, and they don’t even mention it. - Sam

Off-screen: Crafts, Games, and More Koselig Recs


Credit Erika Janik

Embroidery. I can’t resist recommending a craft and this is one you can do while watching TV, listening to Outside/In… whatever you decide to do. Embroidery doesn’t require a lot of tools (embroidery floss and hoops are inexpensive and you can embroider just about any fabric, though I recommend not using anything stretchy to start), and you can do a lot with a few basic stitches. - Erika

Paper gems. This is another great craft that also doesn’t require a lot of tools. I just found a free template online, picked some card-stock I like, and spent several evenings making garlands as gifts (here’s a beautiful but slightly more complicated template I want to try, with a helpful tutorial). - Justine

Broom making. You too can make your own hand brooms! Sunhouse Crafts has a great starter kit and instructional videos to get started. The only other thing you need is a stick (and scissors). - Erika

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This book came out in 2016, but I just read it a few months ago. It looks at how the legacy of enslavement passes through generations, starting in the 18th century in Ghana with two half sisters - one becomes enslaved, the other does not. So, the book follows a different person from each side of the family through the generations, all the way to America, through the Civil War, Harlem... it's written just with so much care and love, and each of the characters in each of the chapters really just come alive. I just loved it and found it transporting and beautiful. - Erika

Credit Erika Janik
Homemade hand brooms!

Cartographers, a mapmaking game. The theme is that you're a cartographer and you're building a fantasy map that has forests, rivers, and occasionally hoards of goblins. You arrange the shapes of those different land masses onto a grid. It's kind of like Tetris or like Blokus, but has this feeling that you're making a map. You can inject a little more artistic aesthetic into it if you want, or just do it really simple and play it for the points. My nine-year-old likes to play it, and he doesn't like competitive games, so we play it for the fun of it and de-emphasize the points, and just add them together at the end. - Taylor

Wingspan, a competitive card-driven board game. The art is gorgeous - this is a beautiful game that’s very inspired by the natural world. The cards represent real birds, and each bird has a special power. You're attracting them to your nature preserve throughout the game. Their powers are actually associated with the behavior of that species, so with predator birds,  you get points for killing mice, while other birds cash seeds in the bark of trees. - Taylor (and Sam)

Yoga nidra, or “yogic sleep.” I’ve definitely had moments of anxiety during the pandemic, and I’ll use this technique sometimes if I have trouble sleeping. It's part of a restorative yoga practice, and I’ve also seen it called body scan meditation. Basically, you'll lie down in a comfortable position, and your teacher (or the video) will prompt you basically to move your mental attention to different parts of your body in a scan. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is also active during sleep, during digestion, etc. It can literally put me to sleep. It’s very effective for me. - Justine

Credit Justine Paradis
Homemade paper garlands demonstrating koselig

It's Okay to Sleep Late (Do It For Your Immune System)
Brent Baughman and Emily Kwong for Short Wave from NPR

Another top tip for thriving in winter? Getting a good night's sleep - but that doesn't look the same for everyone.

In this episode of Short Wave, a daily science show from NPR, Emily Kwong speaks with Dr. Syed Moin Hassan about the differences in how we sleep.

"I don't know who needs to hear this," he posted on Twitter, "BUT YOU ARE NOT LAZY IF YOU ARE WAKING UP AT NOON."  In this episode of Short Wave, a daily science show from NPR, Hassan speaks to Short Wave's Emily Kwong about de-stigmatizing sleeping in late, and why a good night's rest is so important for your immune system.

Dr. Hassan is now training as a pulmonary and critical care fellow at the University of Vermont.

This episode originally aired in 2020 and was produced by Brent Baughman, edited by Viet Le, and fact-checked by Emily Vaughn.


Outside/In is NHPR's podcast about the natural world and how we use it. Click here for podcast episodes and more.

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