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




68 Replies to “Practicing the Norwegian Custom of Friluftsliv”

  1. This is one of my goals for this year. I travel a lot but when I am home I am more routine focused. I want to do this at home too!

  2. The free air life – I like that! My favorite way to connect with nature is hiking. Especially when I can choose my own pace and linger whenever I want to.

  3. So interesting! I love this. I literally feel like a million bucks when I have the opportunity to spend time outdoors in beautiful weather.

  4. Hi Cindy – I’m visiting from Senior Salon link up. I’ve heard of Hygge from Denmark but not this Norwegian practice. I can relate to it though because I practice it by walking outdoors six times a week, year round. I have a Wellness link up currently open on my blog. Please feel free to join with this post as I think it’s relevant. #senisal

  5. I had never heard of these but I love the outdoors and spend time centering myself in my garden, so this makes sense! Thank you for sharing something new for me to learn about!

    1. That’s what I’m discovering. These things I love have names. It’s so fun to learn about new practices.

  6. I’ve heard of forest bathing, but not this Norwegian custom. I love all your pictures! And how terrific you did a solo retreat to get your outdoor/nature time. I agree with you that we’re a lot more centered and happier when we commune with nature.

  7. This made me want to take a solo hike which I’ve never done before. It sounds so amazing though. to be able to connect and silence without thinking about anyone else or watching kids.

    1. I adore my solo hikes. One of my most memorable was after we received a foot of snow. I hiked through totally silent woods without another person around. So magical.

  8. What a lovely post! I think the Japanese word for this practice translates to ‘forest bathing.’ It relaxes you in the same way as a bath, I guess. Thanks for the reminder to get outdoors.

  9. Your photos in this post are beautiful. I didn’t know that when I went for walks in the woods when I lived in Germany had a name for what I was doing. I wish I had some woods nearby that I could walk in. It’s hard to find friluftsliv in middle Georgia.

    1. I particularly love woods and streams. However any outdoor location is good! I have a nearby park that I enjoy as well. It’s in the middle of the city.

  10. Living in a state that has fairly warm weather all year, we are able to spend time outdoors year round. I fear that makes us less appreciative of the value of being outside and outdoor activities. In the occasional year when we have a cold, snowy winter, we always look forward to spring and I think notice and enjoy the difference even more. I’ve never wanted to live farther north, I guess I am spoiled.

    1. I’d love a warmer climate year around I think! I try to get out daily even in colder weather however my time is more brief when it’s freezing out.

  11. I agree, get outside! I try to keep all my run outside if I can. Sometimes it is not possible, but with the proper attire, it can be done. It feels so good to feel the sun on my face.

  12. I totally practice ‘friluftsliv’ all year round. Running in daylight, moonlight, wind, rain, snow, sun, on the trails in the park, on the hills, etc. 🙂

  13. Oh I love Friluftsliv…what a lovely way to reconnect with nature. I think as having dogs we are doing Friluftsliv every day. Taking them to the beach the park going for long walks. Thank you for another great post #SeniSal

  14. I love this! I feel so much better one I’ve spent time outside. It’s part of my daily schedule with my children. Even if it’s cold, we spend time in nature.

  15. I could totally get on board with Friluftsliv. I’m never happier than being outside in nature, breathing in fresh air with my family!

  16. As someone who doesn’t really care about being “outdoors”, I still agree with your post, there is something about sitting at the beach or on the lake just taking it all in. It’s not something I do often, because it’s just not my thing, but it is good; so yes, I’m a complete contradiction, but what can I say – lol!

    1. I totally get it! Im drawn to nature. Yet I can get so busy that my outdoor time is walking to the car or from the car to the house. Even short amounts of time in nature is beneficial!

  17. Thank you, Cindy, for joining us with this enlightening post about the concept of friluftsliv. I think I have been partaking in it without ever having heard the word. Love to be outdoors. In fact, it is a beautiful January day here in El Paso, and I have been for a walk, a bike ride and sat in the patio chair for a bit in the sun. I noticed several of your photos (lovely) are from Missouri or as my mom would say, “Missoura.” We have folks in Bolivar, Springfield, Sarcoxie, Joplin, and my parents met in St. Louis. Maybe you and I are family?? Hope you will join us again for #WW2020 on 02.16.

  18. You are at such a beautiful place in life, Cindy! I love reading your posts because of how inspiring and intriguing they are. I love the idea of spending more time outside – it definitely has a healing quality to it!

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