A wonderful book offers its readers comfort and escape. Small publishers like Gawell Förlag, co-founded by photographer Charlotte Gawell can also offer outdoor inspiration when we must distance ourselves from nature. Genuine and authentic in content, the volumes under their portfolio bring the seasons inside with rich photography and simple projects for a life in motion united by nature.

BEJournal invited Charlotte to discuss the challenges of isolation and the ingredients of a brilliant story. Our interview explores the impact of lockdown on an independent publisher and how to expand content which inspires readers. As a special treat, Charlotte shares an exclusive peek inside Moonvalley Diaries written by three elite trail runners, Emelie Forsberg, Ida Nilsson and Mimmi Kotka.

Emelie Forsberg tending to her small farm in the idillic Moonvalley in Norway.

How has COVID-19 affected your small business?

Like almost every other small business, the pandemic has affected us. It was necessary to postpone books under production in response to closed borders and quarantine. Our retailers closed, preventing the possibility of ordering any books and our authors could not travel for events. On the positive side, our online orders have increased as people seek something inspiring and uncommon to read. At the moment our focus is on updating content for our website and creating a platform we hope our readers will like. The idea is to update with expanded content from our books, adding authors’ stories and other interesting subjects.

What people are reading and how are they engaging with books?

We can not see a substantial change yet in what people read. However, our books on the simple life in motion and in nature have relevance to our current times. As people slow down, there is more time to discover alternative possibilities within themselves and nature is our greatest healer. Even for people confined in their houses, the lockdown will pass and we will once again be able to enjoy the outdoors. 

What role do independent publishers play in producing unique content?

As independent publishers we can produce bespoke content close to heart. I doubt a larger publisher would produce the books in our portfolio. We are interested and engaged with our authors’ and their topics, this gives us more knowledge to understand the possibilities for a fringe subject. 

Will hardbound books ever become obsolete?

I hope that digital and hardbound publications will continue to coexist. A digital format holds potential for some books more than others, but there are still titles which deserve a physical presence. It is essential to determine the most suitable format for each project. Reducing the volume of titles we publish reduces the consumption of nature’s resources for production and transport of books with a brief shelf life.

What is on your bookshelf at the moment?

I am reading Solo Sister by Johanna Davidsson, who skied unaccompanied to the South Pole. A story about an amazing achievement of physical and mental determination. I am also re-reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, and discover fresh meaning based on my life at that moment.

What are your favourite comfort reads to combat stress?

Because of social lockdown, there is more time to try miny projects inspired by our authors’. My favourite stress busting activities include: baking sourdough bread with Billy White’s book, Eat, Run, Enjoy; establishing a Bokashi compost with Moonvalley Diaries; and cooking in the woods with Outside is Free by Henrik Orre. 

An Exclusive look inside Moonvalley Dairies

Meet Emelie Forsberg, Ida Nilsson and Mimmi Kotka—successful trail runners, but also role models for a simple and sustainable lifestyle, at one with nature. Join them for a year in Moonvalley, the extraordinarily beautiful valley on the west coast of Norway where they train, live and recover. In this book, they share their emotions, thoughts and activities for each month of the year—all to feel good, both inside and out.

They base the training and racing tips on their own regimes throughout the year, but adapted for runners of all levels. The recipes are their own favourites and the ingredients are seasonal, that provide energy and health benefits, and that they cook themselves.

Find harmony and a balance between passion, training, health, food, challenges, rest and contemplation. A book to inspire you—as a runner and as a person.

Enjoy this bonus from the book curtosy of Gawell Förlag.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

You cannot overestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. We humans are always on the hunt for these silver bullet health solutions and there are a few things that work wonders: getting out and moving around every day, eating healthily, and perhaps most importantly, sleeping well. Of course, the three are interconnected. Sleep is absolutely vital. If people are deprived of their sleep, they die. Sleep is the prerequisite for our physical and mental capacity, and if it is not considered sacred, it should be.

A little baby sleeps an incredible amount. This is because there is so much going on in its body and brain. It takes a lot of rest and sleep to build a human being. Growing children need to sleep a lot. The need for sleep increases again when kids enter their teens and loads of hormonal changes start happening in their bodies. This is why teenagers are so tired in the morning—they need to sleep in order to grow up. The older we get the less we seem to sleep, but almost everyone still needs eight hours. With the stressful lives that many people lead today and all the impressions that we are constantly being bombarded with, one can wonder whether sleep is not even more important to us now than it was to the caveman. There is so much more to be processed and repaired. Research also shows that, in the long run, sleep deprivation leads to an increased risk of depression, weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disruption, an impaired immune system, poorer memory and lots of other problems.

If you lead an active life, work out a lot, have a demanding job or just a demanding life, getting good sleep is particularly import-ant. Partly because you need more recovery, and partly because the performance demands are probably higher. Not much sleep deprivation is needed for your physical and mental performance to suffer: just a couple of nights with a couple of hours less than you need. It is possible to compensate to some extent for a few nights of not enough sleep by sleeping in on the weekends, but this is just a short-term fix and is not optimal. And if you are serious about competing, sleep is probably the first thing you need to prioritise. Sleep is what allows your body to build back up what training broke down. This is called super-compensation and is what allows you to make progress in your training.

It’s not just about quantity though, but about how you sleep. When we sleep, we pass through several cycles made up of different types of sleep. The bulk of super-compensation happens in deep sleep, and this is the sleep that leaves us really well rested. The cycles last between 90 and 120 minutes. A sleep cycle begins by you gradually falling deeper asleep, and after a while you enter deep sleep. After that you sleep more lightly again, and end with REM sleep, which is also called dream sleep. That is when you are sleeping most lightly. The night’s first sleep cycles contain more deep sleep, while the last ones contain more rem sleep. In theory, you could sleep for endless hours, but if you are constantly being woken up and never make it down into deep sleep, you will never be completely rested.

The secretion of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy, varies over the course of the day. It increases at dark and peaks at night. On the other hand our stress hormone, cortisol, makes us awake and alert. In other words, taking care of your cortisol-melatonin cycle is a good way of improving your sleep. Cortisol levels are at their highest in the morning and should normally fall over the course of the day, settling into a trough in the evening when your melatonin takes the controls, as it were.

The most important thing is to take your sleep seriously and to understand how important it is to your quality of life. Of course, there are factors that you cannot control and that interfere with your sleep, but there are many tricks available if you want to improve your sleep.

Mimmi’s Tips for Sleeping Better

  • Stimulate cortisol in the morning by getting out into the daylight.
  • Coffee, tea and chocolate have a stimulating effect on cortisol, but the effect tapers off the more accustomed you are to these. If you are sensitive to caffeine: avoid it in the afternoon and evening. Drink something caffeine-free and calming instead.
  • The blue light on screens is similar to daylight and makes your body think it is daytime. Avoid blue light sources—computers, smartphones and TV—before bed. If you have to sit in front of a screen in the evening, there are apps and programs you can install that filter out the blue light.
  • Reduce stress in the evening. Wind down and do something relaxing. Hot tip: sex stimulates the secretion of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which makes us more tired and less stressed.
  • Turn off and go to bed! No “I’m just going to”: sleep is important. We all have different circadian rhythms, but the hormones are optimized for sleep between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol does make you sleepy, but the quality of your sleep deteriorates.
  • We sleep worse if we are too hot. Lower the temperature in the bedroom and avoid raising your body temperature with exercise, sauna or hot baths before going to bed.
  • Light interferes with sleep by stimulating photoreceptors in the eyes and all over your body, so make sure it is completely dark in the bedroom and wear an eye mask if you need to. Disturbing sounds can cause you to wake up often—invest in good earplugs.
  • Taking a nap is perfectly okay and can be a great way to get more sleep during the day. Just make sure not to nap too late in the day, as this can disturb your night-time sleep.
Try Emelie’s soothing night latte for a better night’s sleep (recipe below).

Emelie’s Night Latte

Drinking something hot in the evening is relaxing and helps you unwind. Stimulants like the caffeine in coffee, tea and chocolate perk you up, so it’s better to drink a good herbal tea. There are plenty of soothing herbal blends such as chamomile, lavender, passion flower, linden or valerian.

Brew a soothing herbal tea and let it steep. The stronger the better. Warm plant milk, froth it if you like. Mix herbal tea, warm milk and sweeten with vegan honey to taste.