The Norwegian Practice of Friluftsliv Is the Best Thing You Can Do for Yourself in 2021
After the past 10 months, even the most indoorsy types among us are itching to venture beyond their four walls. The wanderlust is all too real, and we’ve seen it manifest in the rise of road trips, state park visits (which are up 21 percent year over year) and embracing a cottagecore or cabincore aesthetic, be it on TikTok or IRL. It’s no wonder, then, that the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv (pronounced free-looft-sliv) has taken off in the United States. Loosely translated to “free air life” or “open air living,” friluftsliv is all about connecting with nature and taking time to slow down and appreciate the great outdoors (yes, mosquitoes and all).
While the concept was first popularized by author Henrik Ibsen in 1859—and was already a way of life for many in Norway, Sweden and Denmark for thousands of years—it was Covid lockdowns that really sparked an interest among Americans. Google searches for friluftsliv have surged over the past year, and Etsy’s seen such interest in the concept that it deemed friluftsliv “the new hygge.”
Why Is Friluftsliv So Popular?
“As many continue to experience lockdowns and social distancing restrictions as a result of the pandemic, friluftsliv offers a connection to nature and its calming, grounding effects,” says Etsy’s trend expert, Dayna Isom Johnson. “In an increasingly technology-filled world, many are finding ways to step away from their screens and appreciate the outdoors more than ever.”
On the most basic level, it gets you to slow down, stop doom scrolling and seek out the world that existed before it became barnacled with strip malls and chain restaurants.
What Are the Benefits of Friluftsliv?
Beyond providing a form of entertainment that doesn't start at Netflix’s homepage, spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and boost your mood. A simple walk around the block mid-day could help stimulate your focus, evading that mid-day slump (without the need for another cup of coffee). It could also help you land a date. Kidding…kinda.
“I noticed one word everywhere, on every profile [on dating sites in Norway]. You had to like friluftsliv to get a date with a Norwegian man,” quipped author and human rights lawyer Lorelou Dejardins in her TEDx Talk on the concept. She realized women listed it frequently too, and over time, learned that it wasn’t so much that people had to love the outdoors—it was a sign that the other person was “active, reliable and resilient.” Aren’t those three qualities we could all use to cultivate right now—and hope for in a future partner?
What Are Some Easy Ways to Embrace Friluftsliv?
While searches for friluftsliv are rife with examples of people spending weeks trekking through mountain ranges or roughing it to a degree that’d make Bear Grylls proud, connecting with nature doesn’t have to be that hardcore. Really, the concept is about making “a commitment to celebrate time outdoors, no matter your age or physical condition,” according to Visit Norway. (It’s worth noting that the site continues, “…regardless of the season and weather forecast,” underscoring that popular Norwegian saying, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Take that as you will.)
Here are simple ways to ease into the lifestyle:
- Use AllTrails to discover hiking trails near you.
- Visit your local state park.
- Get into birdwatching.
- Set up a fire pit in your backyard. (How cool is this abstract metal style?)
- Pick up a copy of The Wander Society, a Walt Whitman-inspired guide to “unmanned exploring.” Find a grassy knoll to read it on, before embarking on your own adventures.
- Set up a few Adirondack chairs, grab a hefty quilt and create an al fresco lounge area for your next Zoom happy hour.
- Bed-bound? Try “slow TV,” nature videos that fans find transporting and soothing.
- Meditate on a hammock.
- Ride a bike.
- Head to a nearby park and paint your view.
- Go on a picnic.
- Take your next YouTube yoga session outside.
- Use pickyourown.org to find your nearest pick-your-own produce farm.
- Go fishing.
- Fly a kite.
- Set your alarm a few hours early, so you can catch the sunrise.
Even if you never take a 57-day winter trek with your toddler à la Norwegian wilderness award winner Alexander Read, the fresh air is bound to do you some good.