How About Some Friluftsliv?
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Psalm 96: 11-12
Did you know that I am all Norwegian? Well, according to 23andMe, I am 98.4% Scandinavian—from Norway and Sweden. I am sticking with 100% Norwegian since my recent ancestry is from Norway. I like to read books about Norway and other Scandinavian countries. I am currently reading The Scandinavian Guide to Happiness by Tim Rayborn. It is in this book that I discovered the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) which means free-air-life. It is the connection to nature by being in nature. Another Norwegian term relating to our connection with nature is naturrensing, meaning nature cleansing. It reminds me of forest bathing. This practice was developed in Japan in the 1980s (shinrin-yoku in Japanese) and encourages being out in nature. So, what do these foreign words have to do with health and wellness? Nature is one of the most healing environments that I have been in. I feel better just being amongst the trees or next to a river. Being out in nature is a feast for the senses. When I am walking/biking/hiking, I like to choose one of my senses and see what I can experience. Have you ever noticed how many different shades of green there are in the woods? Smelling the spring wildflowers for the first time each year brings such joy. There are so many different sounds if you take the time to listen—frogs, a bunny or chipmunk rustling in the grass, laughing children, bird call. I pick up a pinecone or a rock or a leaf and hold it in my hand as I walk and take note of its texture and contours. Now the sense of taste is a little tricky, especially with the concerns about pesticide use. I have been known to pick a pine needle and taste the bitterness or a piece of grass and put the tender, sweet shoot in my mouth. If you take the time to really be with nature, it is an amazing experience. Studies have shown that nature can energize us, lower rates of depression, reduce cortisol levels, and strengthen our immune system. You may also get a little exercise in the process. It can improve our feelings of happiness!
At Bethel, we are giving you the opportunity to do a little friluftsliv, naturrensing, or forest bathing of your own. We have three activity groups that get you out of the house to experience nature right here in the Rochester area and a fourth group that started as an outdoor group but moved indoors. There is no need to go to Norway or Japan (even though I would love to go to Norway and wouldn’t mind returning to Japan) to experience nature—it is literally in your own back yard. It is also your chance to discover some new areas of Rochester. So far, at least one person from each outdoor group has said, “I have never been here before. I didn’t know this existed.” That is one of the bonus benefits of participating—seeing Rochester with new eyes. It is also an opportunity for fellowship with other Bethel members. Contact Kathy Ferguson, firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining any of the groups.
Here’s what the groups have been up to this summer:
• Tuesdays, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
• We start at various locations throughout Rochester and at nearby trails.
• These rides are easy to moderate in nature, some cycling skills are required.
• There is usually a group of 7-10 bikers who ride 6-9 miles at each weekly ride. Some of us have been riding together for several years, but we are happy to have a group of new bikers who joined us this year.
• Thursdays, 9:00-10:00 a.m.
• We start at various locations throughout Rochester.
• Easy-going walks for a variety of skill levels
• There are 8-10 participants at each weekly walk. We usually walk 1.5 to 2 miles with a mid-way break.
• One Saturday hike monthly, starting at 9:00 a.m.
• Locations include Quarry Hill, Oxbow Park, and Root River Park
• These are easy to moderate hikes.
• Our first hike was cut short by rain, but we are looking forward to our upcoming July and August hikes.
the Courtyard Bethel Hall
• Mondays, 6:00-6:45/7:00 p.m., current session concludes in late July.
• Originally held in Bethel’s Courtyard, but because of weather and noise issues was moved to Bethel Hall.
• All skill levels welcome. You don’t have to be able to bend yourself into a pretzel to join. Our instructor, Jen, offers modifications for all yoga poses.
• Plans are for another session in the fall.
Loving Father and Creator of all, we come to you today deeply grateful for your creation.
As we look around us we are amazed at the greatness and majesty of all that you have made.
Nature around us speaks of your greatness—the vast expanse of the sky, the mountains, trees, lakes, and streams speak of your great design.
You have given us such beauty in the colors of the rainbow, the beauty of flowers and fields.
Words cannot adequately express the magnificence of all you have created.
We join in praise with the writer of the psalms when he says, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth.”
May we show our love and reverence to you, our Lord, by caring for all that you have created.
We humbly give you praise and thanks. Amen. (from Thoughts About God)