You might be familiar with hygge, the Danish custom of coziness. But in the midst of summer, cozy might feel less seasonally-appropriate. With the warm weather and blue skies, you might find yourself drawn to the Norwegian philosophy of friluftsliv.
What Is Friluftsliv?
Embraced heavily in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, friluftsliv loosely translates to “open-air life.” It’s a deep-seated tradition that’s all about going outdoors and finding communion with nature. The word was coined in 1859 by a Norwegian writer, Henrik Ibsen, who wrote a poem about a man who retreats into nature in order to think clearly.
An appreciation of the outdoors is deeply embedded in Scandinavian culture, so much that folks will head out to hike or ski even during the coldest times of the year. (Sweden has a popular saying, “There is no bad weather, just bad clothes”).
But Friluftsliv isn’t just being outside: it’s about immersing yourself in the environment. Aiming for a minimalist approach to the outdoors, it doesn’t have to involve fancy camping supplies or sporting equipment. Going for a leisurely walk in the woods or picking berries both count as practicing friluftsliv, so long as you take time to appreciate your surroundings.
Friluftsliv and Communal Culture
Friluftsliv ties heavily into Scandinavia’s communal values. In Norway, frituftsliv goes hand in hand with another concept, allemannsretten. This translates to “everyman’s right”, but it also means “freedom to roam.” It’s the idea that anyone in Norway is free to explore nature and traverse uncultivated land. Nature is for everyone, and all citizens have a right to the outdoors. In fact, Norwegian law allows you to camp on private property, so long as you stay at least 150 meters away from buildings.
The Benefits of Friluftsliv
We might do well to emulate a nature-loving lifestyle. Norway, after all, has been rated one of the happiest countries in the world. Not to mention, going outdoors has shown to have innumerable mental and physical benefits. Spending time in nature has been linked to lower stress levels, decreased anxiety, reduced inflammation, and of course, an uptick in Vitamin D.
But then again, maybe friluftsliv isn’t so foreign after all. The US definitely has a history of outdoor enthusiasm, from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature essay to our beloved national park system.
Perhaps its time we use this Norwegian concept to revitalize our own American roots.