Get Out There

How to Practice Gökotta

We love words from other languages that can’t be easily translated. So far, we have written about four!

There’s hygge — the Danish concept of coziness. Then there is uitaaien — the Dutch belief that walking around on cold, windy days helps you relax. We wrote about friluftsliv — the Nordic practice of being outside in all weather, just living life. And finally, we covered niksen — the Dutch concept that actively doing nothing boosts health.

Today, we are covering gökotta — the Swedish practice of getting up early to listen to birdsong. Getting up early sets you up for a positive and productive day. And being immersed in nature first thing in the day can aid mental health.

It started with the religious practice of listening to the cuckoo sing for the first time of the spring on Ascension (the 40th day after Easter). It morphed into being just a part of the culture. It’s something we can all do to get a taste of Sweden, even here in the U.S.

Waking up early before the day begins gives you time to organize your thoughts and activities before the rest of the world (and your household) rises. But, even though you are alone, when you participate in the act of gökotta, you become one with nature. You’re not really alone. The world is waking up even if your family isn’t. The birds greet you as you greet them.

While the Swedish go out into nature and go for a walk to hear the birds, that’s not always necessary. If you like walking, do it! Get out there! But if you can’t get up and out that early, open the windows and listen from your kitchen table. Birds are, after all, all around us. If you want to fully submerse yourself in the experience, you can go camping and allow bird song to act as your alarm clock. While camping isn’t for everyone, it can be an incredible and refreshing way to reconnect with nature.

Cultures have amazing ways to refresh themselves. We have our own wellness beliefs that other cultures might find odd. While many cultures believe in the power of positive thought, the law of attraction is a belief invented here. It’s the idea that you get the energy you put into the world. It was coined in the early 19th century; it was popularized multiple times, going in and out of fashion. Most recently, the book The Secret made it popular again. Our team believes in the power of positive thought, if not the law of attraction.

While the law of attraction may be debatable, learning from each other’s cultural practices is valuable and interesting as it helps us feel closer to one another and grow together. So, forget about waking up and smelling the coffee. For the sake of your health, emulate the Swedish and wake up and listen to the birds.  

Banner image: Ray Hennessy via Unsplash

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