All About Friluftsliv: Get Outside With This Nordic Lifestyle Concept

By Rebecca Cox

2 years ago

We’ve completed Hygge. It’s time to get outdoors.

After several years of outdoor meet-ups, many of us are getting used to braving the elements and reconnecting with nature. Friluftsliv is the wellness trend-cum-lifestyle concept on everyone’s lips right now, as we once again look to Nordic practices to enhance our wellbeing. We’ve learnt Lagom, we’ve completed Hygge, is now the time to practice free-air-living with friluftsliv?

‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.’

We spoke to Niels Eék, Psychologist and co-founder of personal development and mental wellbeing app Remente to find out everything we need to know about Friluftsliv.

What Is Friluftsliv?

“Literally translating to ‘free-air-living’, friluftsliv is the Nordic lifestyle concept that refers to the value of spending time outdoors and is something that is ingrained into us Swedes from a young age. This is why, even in the depths of winter, groups of friends will often be found meeting outdoors, hiking and picnicking together.

“Friluftsliv can have many positive effects on mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing, helping us to cultivate gratitude for all that we have, and all that nature provides. It is the practice of finding pause in the busy and mundane by taking a moment to breathe in the fresh air and reconnect with nature, no matter the season. With studies showing that living in a state of disconnection from nature can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and wellbeing, it’s clear that this Nordic idea could benefit people everywhere.”

Why is wellness so important right now?

“In these uncertain times, anxiety levels can run high, so it is more important than ever to safeguard mental wellbeing whilst in solitude. From keeping in regular contact with friends and family to maintaining a daily routine, practicing meditation or journaling, we are all taking steps to help us to feel more balanced and to safeguard our mental health. With life at a standstill and with fewer distractions at hand, we are recognising the importance of caring more for ourselves and our mental wellbeing.”

What are the benefits of friluftsliv?

“Living a more friluftsliv way of life means being outdoors as much and as often as possible which, of course, benefits both your physical and mental health. Friluftsliv can be many things to many people; however, to most, it will involve taking a walk out in nature, enjoying a meal outdoors in the fresh air or enjoying an open-air run, swim or cycle.

The mental health benefits have been recognised in a study by the mental health charity, Mind, as an effective treatment for depression. Participants who took part in the study reported a significant reduction in feelings of anger, confusion, depression, and tension after taking part in outdoor activities. Furthermore, a recent study, published in the BioScience Journal, found that regular exposure to nature can, amongst other things, reduce feelings of stress and even improve self-esteem.

“Regular exercise is also proven to boost the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural anti-depressant. These endorphins are hormones that block pain and encourage feelings of euphoria. In other words, these hormones can make you feel more energetic, alert and happier.”

How can we embrace friluftsliv with the British weather?

“We have a saying in Sweden: ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes’. Whether it is a lunchtime run in the forest, commuting to work by bike (or on skis when the snow falls), joining friends at a lakeside sauna, or simply relaxing in a mountain hut, the concept of friluftsliv and outdoor living is about reconnecting with nature, feeling at peace with your surroundings, regardless of temperature or weather, and finding peace in it.

“In Britain, you love to walk freely in nature, in Sweden we call that ‘allmansrätten’ – the right to roam. Scandinavian countries all have similar laws which allow people to walk or camp practically anywhere, as long as they show respect for the surrounding nature, wildlife and locals. As a result, Scandinavians feel encouraged to regularly go camping for the weekend, even in the winter when there is frost and snow on the ground. In order to overcome your urge to hibernate, embrace the right to roam! Get the right clothing, find a nearby beauty spot that will make you want to brave the cold, and embrace the idea that being outside, even in the cold and rain, is nourishing your soul.”

Ok, we’re ready, what next?

Start with a walk in one of London’s most beautiful walks, keep your feet dry in the best waterproof boots and rediscover the healing powers of forest bathing.

Decided you really DO want to hibernate? Brush up on hygge.

Featured image: by Aleksander Pedosk