Friluftsliv: the Norwegian secret to happiness and well-being

Friluftsliv, the distinctly Norwegian practice of connecting with the natural environment

Immersing oneself in nature to experience a profound connection with one’s inner self and others, thus finding the path to well-being and happiness, is the essence of friluftsliv. This Norwegian term, which can be translated as “outdoor life,” encompasses a concept that is much broader and more complex.

The origin of Friluftsliv

Spending ample time outdoors, taking walks along rivers or through forests, and living in connection with nature is intrinsic to Norwegian culture. It’s a way of being that is part of the country’s national identity.

The term friluftsliv was first used by the poet Henrik Ibsen in his composition (On The Heights) in 1859 to describe a sort of deep spiritual connection with nature, which he believed holds the secret to well-being and happiness.

Friluftsliv does not denote a specific activity but embraces all activities that can be performed outdoors from which our spirit can draw vital sustenance and benefit. Hiking in the forest, kayaking along the fjords, skiing in the mountains, gathering wild fruits and berries, or simply sitting in the heart of the forest… this is friluftsliv.

Friluftsliv today

Far from being an ancient concept outdated by technology and the sedentary, urban lifestyle that dominates modern society, friluftsliv is still much loved and practiced by Norwegians.

A recent survey revealed that 83% of Norwegians are interested in friluftsliv, 77% spend time in nature every week, and 25% do so almost daily. Many people choose to sleep outside, in nature, at least once a week.

In Norway, there is also a tradition of letting small children sleep outdoors for a few nights during the winter to strengthen their immune defenses and their resistance to the cold.

The benefits of this practice

The health benefits of spending time outdoors, in contact with the natural environment, are well documented in scientific literature.

Walks in the greenery help soothe symptoms of respiratory diseases such as asthma and allergies; they are good for the heart as they reduce hypertension; they contribute to improving the quality of our rest, reducing insomnia.

But friluftsliv does much more than this. The practice helps reduce anxiety and depression, improving mood and psychological well-being in the long term.

Furthermore, those who engage in friluftsliv report feeling more focused at work (or study), more inclined to learn new things, more curious, and more open towards others.

Finally, spending time in nature detaches one from daily life and seems to increase the ability to change perspective, making people more resilient and more prepared to face challenges and changes.

Source: Norsk Friluftsliv

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