Treating resilience not as an innate quality, but as a skill to be practised and nurtured, allows you to make lemonade whenever life throws you lemons
The Finnish word sisu refers to a mix of courage, resilience, grit and ‘guts’. In her new book Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage (Gaia), Joanna Nylund explains how the Finns’ close connection with the weather and nature has played a crucial role in forging the resilient nature of the people. “Living in Finland means living with sharp contrasts,” she says. “It is the extremes that rule our lives – from gritting our teeth and summoning our sisu at the approach of winter to celebrating the eagerly anticipated summer with a devotion to the sun that most closely resembles Celtic worship.”
After that long, hard winter, the Finns’ summer ritual is more about celebrating discomfort than luxury hotels or even glamping. In late June, the country collectively withdraws from everyday life and heads out into nature, spending a few weeks in a mökki (summer cabin). The cabin will have a fireplace and cooking facilities, but rarely central heating – and sometimes no electricity or running water.
“Squatting by the lake to wash your dishes in cold water is so romantic!” says Nylund, who explains how their ancestors grew resilient through hardship. “We are modern people living in a modern world, but at heart we are still rural, and we love our sometimes harsh environment. It has given us our sisu.”
Nature is grounding, it teaches self-sufficiency and spending time in it boosts self-esteem. You don’t have to spend four weeks in a cabin – start by spending a bit of time outdoors every day, read and learn a little about the nature around you, dabble in being more self-sufficient by growing a few veg or salad leaves in your garden, spend a night under canvas, and go from there.
Turn to page 92 of May's The Simple Things for more of our feature on How to bounce back.