Friluftsliv: Is this Nordic trend the key to happiness?

With our non-stop lifestyles and our hectic schedules, we can easily lose our way with nature. But this outdoor wellness approach could just change your habits, and make you feel right as rain

Lena Köpcke, Chief of People and Culture at Fishbrain, David Brudö, CEO and co-founder, of mental health and wellbeing platform, Remente, and Andri Kristinsson from Travelade, the largest collection of personally-curated digital travel guides comment: 

Lena: Put simply, friluftsliv is a lifestyle concept that refers to the value of spending time outdoors. This could be walking in the forest, bring with you a picnic, or enjoying a small fika break in the open air. This could also be going for a run or doing something more organised, like hiking in the mountains.

David: Friluftsliv can help us cultivate gratitude for all that we have, and all that nature provides. It’s a practice of finding time to pause in the busy life most of us live in, literally by breathing in the fresh air and connecting with nature, no matter the season. I believe that friluftsliv is vital to both our physical and mental wellbeing. 

Several researchers have looked into the health benefits connected to spending time out in nature. One study specifically, which was recently published in BioScience Journal, found that daily exposure to nature can, among other things, help reduce feelings of stress and even improve your self-esteem, for up to seven hours. Reconnecting with nature can also help you become more mindful and present in the moment. 

Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen via Unsplash

Andri: In Iceland, friluftsliv is practised a bit differently from its Nordic counterparts. Icelanders do not necessarily consider friluftsliv as something soothing and relaxing. The weather conditions in Iceland are harsh and not always very pleasant—even the summers are windy and cool—but this does mean that spending time outdoors leaves you feeling so refreshed and alive. It’s a bit like wholesome food for both the body and soul.    

In Iceland, a lot of people will go hiking, running, and swimming as a group, and with 163 swimming pools in Iceland, most of them outdoors, people will enjoy both a swim and a chat with others. The combination of being outdoors and enjoying each other’s company is what makes the swimming pool culture in Iceland so desirable, and perhaps how most of us practise friluftsliv.    

waterfall stretch breathe

Photo by Svyatoslav Romanov via Unsplash

At the end of the day, it is important to keep in mind that how you experience friluftsliv is very personal. For some, gardening for a couple of hours per week in the backyard will suffice, while others need to completely immerse themselves in the wilderness to experience the bliss that living friluftsliv can give you.

No matter where you are, you can incorporate friluftsliv in your everyday life

David: I try to spend as much time outdoors as possible by prioritising doing activities where I am surrounded by nature. I am very fortunate to live close to nature and woods, but even if you’re not, it can be as simple as spending time in the garden or taking a walk in a park nearby. If you’re in an urban area, considering renting an allotment or visiting an urban farm. To me, friluftsliv is basically about finding a spot that resembles nature as much as possible, and then just soak it in.   

cliff view Photo by Simon Schmitt via Unsplash

Andri: I am very fond of hiking and mountain climbing, and I am an active long-distance trail runner as well. But most importantly, I love going off-the-grid with friends for a trekking trip in the remote wilderness, which Iceland has an abundance of. In the winter, I also really like playing in the snow and I enjoy the act of shovelling snow, which is not very common!

I am also lucky to be part of an outdoor-oriented team of colleagues at Travelade, where friluftsliv is an integral part of our company culture. If we are restless, tired, or in need of some creative inspiration, we do not hesitate to do something outdoors as a team, whether that’s a walking meeting or team run. In the last couple of months, we have been whale watching, sea swimming, rock climbing, and sailing in a glacier lagoon. These activities really energizes us and build team spirit. 

snowy walk in woods

Photo by Amir Hamdi via Unsplash

Lena: I have a dog and I live very close to the forest, so it is natural for me to spend a great deal of time outdoors. For me, and for most people, it is very easy to get to places where I can hike, run, cycle, walk with my dog, etc. In Scandinavia, people typically live incredibly near to large nature spots, and it is part of our culture to spend time enjoying being outside—it has just always been that way. 


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