Uitwaaien: a Dutch practice for reducing stress
Some people like walking in the rain. I don’t but I’ve always loved walking in the wind. Whenever I feel stressed or headachey, I find the wind helps clear my mind, refreshes and re-energises me. It turns out that is a valid practice for reducing stress and in the Netherlands they call this Uitwaaien (pronounced OUT-vwy-ehn).
What is Uitwaaien?
It translates as outblowing and refers to spending time outdoors in the wind. This could involve walking, running, bike riding, playing sport, socialising or picnicing in the wind.
Caitlin Meyer, a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Dutch Linguistics explains that originally the term referred to things blowing about, like a flag flapping or flame flickering in the wind. In the 1800’s it also implied freshening up your clothes by pegging them on a line and allowing them to blow in the wind. By the 1900’s it extended to meaning freshening up yourself. Meyer says in the Netherlands, uitwaaien, is “seen as a pleasant, easy, and relaxing experience—a way to destress or escape from daily life.”
When one says ‘I’ve gotta get uitwaaien,’ it means I’ve got to clear my head and get away from distractions.
Benefits of Uitwaaien
Seeing things move in the wind, such as plants, water, signs, your clothes, hair and even rubbish is enough to keep you engaged and looking at it, but not enough that you have to concentrate or multitask which is what helps you clear your mind and reduce stress. Therefore the main benefits of uitwaaien are:
Enhanced creativity and problem solving skills
General sense of wellbeing as it sparks the production of endorphins (your brain’s feel good neurotransmitters). Wim Hoff also explains “The wind is able to change our biochemistry in the depth of our bodies for the better…The wind offers the gas exchange between the outside and the inside of our selves. How do we regulate that? By doing the breathing, by letting the wind come into our bodies. That is a foundation of health.”
How to practice Uitwaaien
On a windy day consider:
Talking a walk at lunch time. Even if you live or work in a built up environment, a quick walk in the wind will re-energise you.
If commuting to work, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way in the wind.
If driving to the shops, the gym or a friend’s house, park further away and walk to your destination.
Have a walking work or social meeting. Research shows that being outside can boost creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
Get some gardening in.
Run or bike ride in the wind.
Ride a horse.
Get on the water in a sail boat, on a tour boat or even just walk/jog/bike along the edge of a river, lake or sea.
Organise a quick sporting activity outside.
Take a hot drink outside and mindfully notice what you can see, hear, feel.
Sit with a friend/s and catch up over a drink and something easy to eat that won’t blow away in the wind.
Over to you
How will you practice Uitwaaien on the next windy day?