Friluftsliv refers to the close relationship that Norwegians have with nature. Image credit: Getty Images
Scandinavians are still among the happiest countries in the world. In the World Happiness Report published by the United Nations in 2020, Norway ranked fifth. Bergen and Oslo are among the 10 happiest cities. This prosperity is partly explained by the close relationship the Norwegians have with nature, referred to as “friluftsliv”.
Frilovtslev, the philosophy of life from the cold
Friluftsliv can be translated as “life in the open air”. This life philosophy is an integral part of Norwegian culture. The expression is said to have been coined by playwright Henrik Ibsen. In 1859 he described in his poem
on higher ground
The connection of man with nature and the elements that surround him: the wind, the swamp, the mountain, the river. This company brings him a deep feeling of happiness and freedom. Ibsen uses the term “friluftsliv” to refer to the value of time spent away from the world, and its effects on spiritual and physical well-being.
A right to nature enshrined in law
Friluftsliv is part of the Norwegian national identity. The idea of spending time in nature for purely recreational purposes is very old and persists despite changing lifestyles. “Today, nine out of ten Norwegians are sensitive to friluftsliv,” says Bente Leer, general secretary of Norsk Friluftsliv, an umbrella organization of 18 Norwegian associations.
The concept of the right to nature is protected by law in Norway. It allows you to walk and pick flowers, berries or mushrooms or even camp on private land, provided that you stay more than 150 meters from inhabited buildings and leave nothing behind.
Friluftsliv, 365 days a year
Friluftsliv is reflected in all aspects of life. Thus, there are many open-air nurseries and kindergartens, where children spend 80% of their time in the fresh air. Norwegians value having a partner on the go, and first dates in a hiking or biking setting are commonplace. There are state-supported places where you can borrow outside equipment, just like borrowing books from a library. Friluftsliv is taught in primary and university schools.
Calling bad weather to stay indoors is unacceptable for Norwegians, and one of their favorite sayings is “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.” Stanford University psychologist Carrie Lebowitz explains that Norwegians have what she calls a “positive winter mood.” They see the benefits of each season and deal with inconsistencies in weather throughout the year.
Many benefits for physical and mental health
friluftsliv contributes to the happiness of the Norwegians. It is a source of well-being, as it allows you to detach, slow down, and refocus on yourself. Several studies have shown that this practice was motivated above all by the search for peace and serenity. In a public opinion poll in 2020, nine out of ten Norwegians said they feel less stressed and in a better mood when spending time in nature.
For Helga Synnevåg Løvoll, Professor friluftsliv at Fulda University College, the five components of well-being find expression in this philosophy of life:
create or strengthen relationships (spend time with loved ones);
be active (doing physical activity);
notice (be curious, notice what is beautiful);
Expansion of knowledge (learn a new activity or take a new path);
Giving (helping others to have a good time).
How to simply train on friluftsliv?
You don’t have to go fjord exploring to enjoy the benefits of the great outdoors. Hiking, hiking in the woods, afternoon reading by the river, spending a night under the stars, or picking wild fruit are all ways to immerse yourself in nature.
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