Friluftsliv: The Scandi trend that could be the key to happiness

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Our Scandi obsession is going nowhere, and of course, there’s a perfect Scandi word for what we want to be doing all summer long. While hygge was all about slowing down and savouring the little pleasures in life, friluftsliv, the Scandinavian word meaning ‘free air living’ is what we can look forward to with longer, warmer days…

What is friluftsliv?

“Friluftsliv is a lifestyle concept that refers to the value of spending time outdoors, which can have positive effects on both mental and physical wellbeing,” says David Brudö, CEO and co-founder of mental wellbeing and self-development platform Remente. “It can help us cultivate gratitude for all that we have and all that nature provides. It’s a practice of finding pause in the busy mundane by literally breathing in the fresh air and connecting back to nature, no matter the season. What’s more, friluftsliv is vital to our physical and mental wellbeing, with studies showing that living in a state of disconnection to nature may be downright traumatic.”

Run to brunch

What’s so great about it?

In fact, David says, “the concept of ecotherapy has been recognised as an effective treatment for depression, with participants in a study by the mental health charity, Mind, reporting significant decreases in anger, confusion, depression, and tension after taking part in outdoor activities.”

In Scandinavia, the concept of friluftsliv becomes second nature as people are introduced to it as children and make it a part of their everyday lives from a young age. “In Sweden alone, there are 25 non-profit friluftsliv associations with 1.7 million active members, and employers encourage the practice with built-in friluftsliv time for workers, recognising the benefits on employee wellbeing and productivity,” David says.

How can I try it?

As for what friluftsliv actually entails, it varies from person to person. Remente’s other co-founder and its psychologist Niels Eék says, “to make sure that you get the most out of the outdoors, do something that you enjoy and works for you. For some, this means enjoying a good conversation during a morning stroll. For others, it could mean doing something active, such as running or fishing, or just sitting down to enjoy a moment of peace in nature. If possible, try to spend some time outdoors every day, and while you’re outside, take a few minutes to focus on your breathing. As you breathe in and out, concentrate on your senses – what you smell, what you hear, and what you feel.”

Sunburst Over River

Lena Köpcke is chief of people and culture at Fishbrain, the world’s most popular social network for anglers. “In Scandinavia, people typically live close to vast forests, mountains, lakes or beaches, and many people also have a summer house in a remote location, so it’s built into our culture to spend as much time as possible outside, and savour all that nature has to offer us. Our users tell us that going fishing helps them relax and unwind, providing reprieve from the hectic work week and, in many cases, significantly improving their mental wellbeing.”

As for us Londoners, it can be as simple as moving your gym workout to the park or your YouTube yoga session to the garden. Try and walk the last few minutes of your commute, or if you’re feeling adventurous, think about an outdoorsy holiday instead of a lazy one.

But remember, starting small is OK. A few minutes of friluftsliv each day could really help your overall wellbeing, so do as the Scandis do.

By Charlotte

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