Embrace Michigan Winter With A Uniquely Scandinavian Approach

Scandinavian concepts like “hygge” and “friluftsliv” are becoming trendy in the U.S., but what do they mean? Swedish author Linda McGurk explains and shares how Michigan parents and their kids can make the most of a cold, dark winter.

winter snowman

The days get dark at 5 p.m. The wind chills your bones when you run outside to grab that thing you forgot from your car. You haven’t really left the house in days.

But what if embracing a cold Michigan winter could actually improve your mental health and set healthy habits in the future for your kids?

That’s the idea behind author Linda McGurk’s book “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids.”

“It’s so deeply ingrained in me from my upbringing in Sweden that you go outside every day no matter the weather.” — Linda McGurk, author

Born and raised in Sweden, McGurk says she witnessed a “culture clash” when she moved to Indiana to raise her daughters with her American husband.

“Once the weather started to get colder and heading towards winter, people started to hibernate. There were very few people outside,” says McGurk, who would keep walking her daughters in strollers even in the most brutal winter weather.

Courtesy of author Linda McGurk
Courtesy of author Linda McGurk

“People thought I was crazy. They stopped and offered me rides. They took pity on me because they thought I was out in the cold involuntarily,” says McGurk, who also pens the parenting blog Rain or Shine Mamma. “They could not fathom that I was outside by my own will because I actually enjoyed it.”

Scandinavian words and concepts like hygge and friluftsliv have become trendy in the U.S. as the coronavirus pandemic forces Americans to evaluate how they spend winters both indoors and outdoors, but they’re a standard lifestyle for Swedes like McGurk.

Hygge is a term used to represent a sense of coziness and contentment with your surroundings and with other people. Fruiluftsliv roughly translates to “open air living” and is a large part of Scandanivian culture.

“It’s so deeply ingrained in me from my upbringing in Sweden that you go outside every day no matter the weather because it’s so good for you, healthy and makes you feel so much better to get outside,” says McGurk.

Listen: Author Linda McGurk shares tips for embracing winter, no matter the weather.

“In Sweden and all of Scandinavia, we raise children with a close connection to nature,” says McGurk, saying the principle is society-wide from parents to teachers and medical professionals. “The health care system recommends that babies nap outside all year round, which the vast majority of babies do.”

A wide range of studies have shown the mental health benefits of getting outside — even in cold weather — including relieving stress and improving mood. McGurk hopes that Americans take the benefits into consideration.

“We’re diurnal creatures and we’re programmed to be outside when it’s light,” says McGurk. “The daylight helps regulate our hormones, and the hormones in turn regulate our moods. That helps us keep a positive outlook.”

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.