6 Small Habits to Practice Friluftsliv, the Norwegian Way to Boost Happiness in Winter

published Jan 28, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
White room with chair and winter landscape in window. Scandinavian interior design. 3D illustration

Depending on where you live, even the mildest winter can feel endless and dreary from time to time. Add in the fact that more people are spending time at home than ever, and suddenly this season feels like the winter-iest of winters. It’s all too easy to look up and realize you haven’t set foot outside at all. 

That’s why friluftsliv, the Norwegian concept of getting outdoors comes in handy. Pronounced free-loofts-leev, the practice “offers a connection to nature and its calming, grounding effects,” trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson of Etsy tells Apartment Therapy, noting that this might be especially important to people who are following stay-at-home guidelines during the pandemic and trying to balance increased screen time with other hobbies.

A year-round practice for many Norwegians, friluftsliv helps encourage people to get out and get some fresh air regardless of how cold or gloomy it may be. (Scandinavian winters are marked by long periods of darkness, with the sun usually setting around 3 p.m.) “I think it’s important to recognize that Norway has an entire culture that’s setup to support friluftsliv,” says Kari Leibowitz, a health psychologist at Stanford University who teaches a workshop based on the Norwegian winter mindset. “From a young age, children play outside at school no matter the weather, and people are taught how to dress appropriately and feel very comfortable navigating the outdoors.”

Curious how you can incorporate a friluftsliv-friendly practice into your routine? From enjoying your morning coffee outside to decorating with nature-inspired decor, here are six friluftsliv-inspired habits experts suggest trying at home.

Credit: Viv Yapp

Bundle up to spend more time outside when it’s cold

Friluftsliv, which literally translates to “open air living” is all about connecting with nature, and more specifically, spending time outdoors — regardless of how cold it is. “There’s an old Scandinavian adage that says ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’ that definitely applies to friluftsliv,” says Niki Brantmark, founder of My Scandinavian Home and author of “Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life”. “To Scandinavians, friluftsliv is to be enjoyed year-round, no matter the weather, nor the time of day.” 

Making a habit of going outside when it’s cold can be especially beneficial while hunkering down this winter. “Spending time outdoors is one of the only safe activities still available to us, when we know that bars, restaurants, movies, and indoor gatherings can worsen the spread of COVID-19,” Leibowitz says. “Bundling up and spending time outdoors, especially when it’s cold, can be an important way to break up our days when we’re all working from home, and can help us feel refreshed, robust, and revitalized.”

Drink your morning coffee outside 

“Try to commit to standing or sitting outside with your morning cup of coffee or tea to experience the fresh air,” Leibowitz says. “These days it’s so easy for me to spend the whole day without leaving my house, so I try to commit to going outside at least for my morning coffee.”

Even if it means downing a quick cup of joe while sitting on your porch or stoop, Brantmark says just a few minutes of fresh air can provide a plethora of mental and physical perks. “Studies have shown that spending time outdoors can help lower your pulse and ease stress, as well as boost your immune system and your overall fitness and health levels,” she explains.

Take a daily walk

Whether it’s a hike through the deep forest or a ten-minute stroll around the block on your lunch break, Leibowitz says going for a walk outside every day can be a small but effective way to reap some of the health benefits of practicing friluftsliv. “Some people might find that a 10- to 15-minute walk can help kick start their morning or offer a break from their daily routine,” she says. “Time in nature is associated with decreased stress, depression, and anxiety, and the same is true of physical activity and movement.” 

Spend more time in your own backyard

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a yard, Trygve Sunde Kolderup, Head of Sustainability at The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT), says the possibilities of practicing friluftsliv at home are endless. “Hang up a hammock in your backyard so you can read outside when it’s warm, or add or build a fire pit where you and your kids can toast marshmallows when it’s cold,” he advises. “Friluftsliv isn’t about traveling far, it’s about taking advantage of the nature that surrounds you.”

Take in a beautiful view

Whether it means trekking up a mountain top or simply looking out your window, Signe Svanfeldt, a nutritionist for Swedish digital health app Lifesum, says taking in a particularly good view is a great way to practice friluftsliv. “Appreciating a nearby view, especially during sunrise or sunset, can be soothing and uplifting,” she explains. “Friluftsliv is about finding ways to derive pleasure from nature, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be tough or strenuous to be enjoyed.” 

Decorate with nature in mind

If going outside just isn’t a possibility, Johnson says there are ways to bring elements of the great outdoors into your home, too. “Decorating with nature-inspired wall art, indoor planters, or organic materials allows you to embrace the concept of friluftsliv from inside your home,” she explains. “If you have a yard, patio, or a balcony, adding cozy blankets or accent furniture to the area is another way to take advantage of outdoor space while decorating with friluftsliv in mind.”