How Norwegians keep themselves happy by embracing the joy of being outdoors

  • Living
  • Tuesday, 05 Dec 2023

Taking part in 'friluftsliv' activities may help reduce anxiety. — AFP

AS THE northern hemisphere prepares for winter, many people instinctively choose to spend more time indoors, wrapped up in their comforter and snug socks.

In Norway, however, people embrace going outside through the philosophy of friluftsliv. Whatever the season or the weather, Norwegians don’t hesitate to take part in outdoor activities, aware of the physical and psychological benefits they can bestow.

You may have already heard of koselig – a Nordic concept that refers to relaxing in a cosy, warm place – but now we’re talking about friluftsliv, a Norwegian approach that can help you maintain a connection with nature, even in winter.

Essentially friluftsliv celebrates time spent outdoors through a variety of activities, regardless of one’s age or physical condition. Walks with friends in the forest, picnics, bike rides, skiing... even taking your dog out or sitting in a park can be friluftsliv.

The origin of this Norwegian term goes back to 1859, when it was coined by playwright Henrik Ibsen in his poem On The Heights. In that instance, friluftsliv was used to express a physical, mental and spiritual connection with nature.

Today, for modern Norwegians, the term refers to an art of living, a way of being happier on a daily basis by connecting with nature, respecting it and leaving the sometimes stressful routine of everyday life behind them for the moment.

Out in nature

Three quarters of Norwegians spend time connecting with nature every week, and a quarter do so every day, according to a Kantar TNS study cited by The Guardian.

With hundreds of thousands of lakes and ponds, and around 40% of its territory covered by forests, Norway offers many opportunities for taking a breath of fresh air on a regular basis.

And this notion of friluftsliv is practised from an early age. There are several “outdoor kindergartens (friluftsbarnehager), where the children spend 80% of the time outdoors,” outlines the Visit Norway website.

There is even an umbrella association for outdoor organisations taking part in friluftsliv and a university degree in the subject, which is becoming increasingly popular.

This philosophy of life aligns with a number of studies in recent years that have focused on the many physical and mental benefits of spending time in nature. Perhaps this is why Norway is ranked seventh in the UN’s annual list of the world’s happiest countries. – AFP Relaxnews

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