Gökotta and Go Start your Morning

Here on aSweatLife, it’s clear we have a thing for Scandinavian words that are hard to pronounce. Kristen taught us that living in moderation is key with lagom. Emily briefed us on the concept of hygge (before every modern furniture catalog tried to sell us on it – yes, I will buy that sheepskin rug, thank you very much). Today, I’m going to add another one to the list: gökotta (pronounced “go-kah-tuh”).

Gökotta is a Swedish word, which roughly translates to mean, “listen to the morning birdsong.”

Say what? That seems oddly specific, right? Who needs a word for that?

Apparently, I do.

Gökotta mornings

It stems from a Swedish tradition around Ascension Day, celebrated on Thursday of the sixth week after Easter. The Day is celebrated by waking up early (3 or 4 in the morning early) and meeting in a forest to hear birds sing at sunrise. Practically speaking, gökotta isn’t so hardcore. The concept at its core is rather simple: wake up early and take a moment to enjoy nature.

Ok, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

Hear me out. We don’t have time for everything; we make time for what matters. That’s how life works. So, does waking up early and taking a moment to relax and enjoy nature matter? Maybe. Here are some practical ways to try it out for yourself.*

*A few things worth noting: you don’t have to do this every morning. Introducing the concept even a few days a week could be beneficial. Also, these are just a few ideas. There are no rules. Change, adjust and make it your own.

How to have a gökotta morning

1. Start your morning with a walk

Step one to enjoying nature? Get outside. I realize that’s easier said than done when it’s snowing in April, but you’ve got to take it in stride (see what I did there?). The idea here is to make it as calming and easy as possible; don’t stress about how far you need to go or how long you should be outside.

Here’s a challenge to the fitness fanatics: walk, don’t run. This isn’t time to go, go, go. We do enough of that. It’s a time to work out your mental health instead of your physical health (although there will be some physical perks, so it’s a win-win).

There is no set time limit or time threshold to gökotta, so make it work for you – whether that means a quick 5-minute walk around the block or an indulgent lengthy stroll.

2. Enjoy your morning coffee (/tea/beverage of choice) outside

My mornings are best described as rushed, deranged blurs. Between my initial alarm going off and walking out the door, I give myself the exact window of time needed to shower, transform into a human being, decide and re-decide (repeat 2-3 times) on my outfit for the day, and grab whatever essentials I need for the day in my bag-o-everything. I don’t factor in any relaxing. I don’t ease into my day.

Maybe I should.

Here’s an easy solution: set an alarm for ten minutes earlier. The ten-minute compromise will be worth it. Have your morning cup of coffee outside (on a balcony counts) or at the very least inside in a cozy spot with some natural sunlight. Force yourself to take a few minutes to wake up peacefully.

3. Tend to plants/a garden

If you’re like me, this one might be a little far-fetched. I haven’t been able to keep any succulents alive to-date (R.I.P.) and I (illogically) view plants as a huge commitment and responsibility. But if you have a green thumb (even a light green or yellow one) this could be a calming way to bring a little nature into your morning routine. Plus, urban gardens are extremely Instagrammable and your friends will undoubtedly be impressed.

It’s interesting how we cling to Scandinavian words and concepts that seem foreign to us as Americans; it’s no secret that we have trouble taking breaks and living in the moment. We live in a culture that rewards hustle and perceives the idea of taking a break as an indulgence, or worse yet, as laziness.  

So here’s my challenge to you: try it out this week. Evaluate how you feel. Was it valuable? Great. Decide you aren’t a morning person and it’s not going to work out long-term? Great. Just give yourself a break. Try that on for size.

And let us know what other trendy Scandinavian words you’re into, because, clearly, they are onto something.

Happiness Mental Health Think & Feel

About Cass Gunderson

Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is a full-time student at the University of Chicago's Booth Graduate Business School. Before deciding to throw away all her money to go back to school, Cass worked for a private equity firm that buys technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. Cass has completed four marathons and one ultramarathon (she claims she'll never do this to herself again, but that's TBD). She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.