Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Friluftsliv

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Oh, the interesting places curiosity is leading me to. Yesterday I learned about the German word fernweh,¬†which literally means “far sickness”.¬† Fernweh is the strong longing to visit a far away place.

Today I learned more about practicing the Norwegian custom of friluftsliv. I discovered this concept last year, however it recently popped back into my awareness. Curiosity led me down the path of discovery this evening as I learned why reconnecting with nature is so important.

Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Friluftsliv

What is Friluftsliv?

The Norwegian word friluftsliv (pronounced¬†free-loofts-liv) literally means “free air life”. Coined in 1859 by Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian poet studied the healing effects of nature. He led a national movement to spend more time outdoors.

Practiced today throughout Norway, Sweden and Denmark, friluftsliv powerfully impacts physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Hygge, another Scandinavian custom originating in Denmark, encourages people to get cozy and enjoy social interactions. Friluftsliv on the other hand, gets people involved in uplifting interactions with nature. The custom goes beyond a walk outside, although that is part of it. Friluftsliv is about mindfulness and connecting to a larger whole.

Studies show that mental and physical wellbeing elevate when we engage with nature. That connection pulls us outside ourselves and the small worlds we create. It raises awareness of the largeness of the world and of life.

Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Friluftsliv
Practicing the Norwegian custom of friluftsliv on the Tanyard Creek Trail, Bella Vista AR
Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Friluftsliv
Practicing the Norwegian custom of friluftsliv in the Botanical Gardens of northwest AR.

Benefits of Friluftsliv

We know that walking outside is good for us. However, it goes beyond exercise. Getting outdoors and immersing ourselves in nature centers the mind and the body and resets our emotions. This is especially important during the winter months, when many people react to the lack of sunlight. (Read more about seasonal affective disorder here.)

Additionally, practicing the Norwegian custom of friluftsliv releases the feel good hormones, endorphins, into the body. It improves blood circulation and mood and reduces stress. The practice not only increases creativity, it helps to eliminate mental blocks. And friluftsliv even helps relieve a hangover!

Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Friluftsliv
Practicing the Norwegian custom of friluftsliv at the Botanical Gardens, Springfield MO
Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Friluftsliv
And increasing wellbeing at Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens.

Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Friluftsliv

Practicing this centering custom is easy. Get outdoors. In Norway, people regularly spend time outside, even in winter. In fact, many companies there encourage their employees to practice friluftsliv by designating 90 minutes a week for group activities outside.

You can practice friluftsliv too. Start by scheduling a time for outdoor activities. Then disconnect from electronic devices and eliminate distractions. This isn’t the time for chatting with friends as you walk. Friluftsliv is about connecting with nature, not with each other. Group activities are permitted as well. However, let the beauty of nature engage your senses and capture your attention.

Try these activities, to deepen the connection with nature:

  • walk in the woods, along a beach, through a park
  • run
  • hike
  • picnic at the park, in a meadow, alongside a creek
  • meditate or sit quietly outdoors
  • swim, ski, sail or surf
  • explore a forest, a cave, that mountain, a valley
  • camp
  • visit a farm or vineyard
  • garden
Mercy Park
Practicing the Norwegian custom of friluftsliv at Mercy Park, Joplin MO
One of my favorite ways of practicing mindfulness outdoors, gardening.

My Intention

I find myself repeatedly drawn outdoors. Gardening is a favorite hobby and nature speaks deeply to me. Although I’ve connected those longings to my Scottish roots, my DNA results shed light on another possibility. I have Scandinavian ancestry as well, with links to Sweden especially. My desire to practice hygge and now friluftsliv may be in my blood, literally.

That draw I feel, to walk outside even in winter, is not an oddity. It is a calling to get outdoors and center myself, stir my blood and awaken greater creativity.

I am delighted to discover more about this healing practice. As a writer, I spend hours online. It is vital that I disconnect daily from social media, computers and my smart phone and lose myself for a time in nature.

Have you heard of this Norwegian custom? What is your favorite way of spending time outdoors?

Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Frilutsliv
Practicing the Norwegian custom of friluftsliv on my solo retreat. The deck overlooked a gorgeous little lake. The cold didn’t keep me indoors.

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This post is linked to Wellness Weekend 2020