Fighting stress and anxiety may seem like a chimera to many.
However, for speakers of Dutch, the official language of the Netherlands and some regions of Belgium, the key can be as simple as applying a word: get a breath of fresh air.
Its pronunciation may seem convoluted (for a Spanish speaker I already warn you that it is), but its meaning is quite simple.
Uitwaaien is one of those words that they do not have a literal translation in our language. It would amount to “taking a breath of fresh air.”
The Dutch seem to have it clear. In the face of worry and stress, it is best to get outside, walk, exercise and enjoy the outdoors.
“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of uitwaaien is a windy beach. It means going for a walk to a place where the breeze hits you, “Jasper van Emmerick, a Dutch journalist living in Utrecht, Netherlands, describes to BBC Mundo.
Nice, easy and relaxing experience
“Uitwaaien is basically the activity of spending time outside while the wind hits you, either walking or riding a bicycle “, reaffirms to BBC Mundo Caitlin Meyer, professor in the department of Dutch linguistics at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Meyer agrees with Van Emmerick and states that, where she lives, uitwaaien reminds her of the beach, but that it can be practiced in any open space, like a forest.
“It’s something you do to clear your mind and refresh yourself. Breathe bad airs and breathe good airs. In fact, for my boyfriend it can also mean driving a bareback down the road. In general, it is a pleasant, easy and relaxing experience, “adds Meyer.
The academic clarifies that it does not have a spiritual connotation, far from it. In fact, for the Dutch it is a very normal activity and they do not even consider uitwaaien as something “exclusively Dutch”.
You may be wondering why Dutch has a specific word for this activity and other languages don’t.
Although the historical or social reasons are not clear, “linguistically form verbs in Dutch with a preposition – in this case from– it’s quite simple and that could have helped the origin of that word, “Meyer explains.
In the late 16th century, it meant waving or waving something in the wind, such as a flag or sail from a ship. This connotation continues to be used, but by the end of the 19th century uitwaaien also described washing, drying and cooling things in the wind, such as clothes.
“Later, this meaning was extended to include people as well, especially those angry who needed to relax in the wind or tireless people who wanted to expend energy,” says the specialist.
“It used to be used as a reflexive pronoun, so today’s verbal meaning is a modern innovation. Language always flows,” says Meyer.
The benefits of spending time outdoors to combat stress
Stress can affect us all differently, but if it becomes chronic it can have negative repercussions on our daily lives.
According to the British National Health Service (NHS), excess stress can affect our mood, body and relationships, “especially when it feels out of control.”
It also makes us feel anxious, irritable, and affects our self-esteem. It can even generate physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that can lead to other psychosomatic symptoms.
In 2016, a study from the University of Exeter looked at the benefits of exercising outdoors and spending time near nature frequently, at least half an hour on five days a week.
The study leaders not only highlighted the positive impact of “green exercise” for stress and mental health, but also to combat other health problems such as obesity.
They even calculated that exercising and spending time outdoors, whether running, walking or riding a bicycle, saves millions of money for the public health system.
So although it costs to write, translate and pronounce it, it seems that the Dutch know what they are talking about every time they go out to live the get a breath of fresh air.
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Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.