Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better. -Albert Einstein
While other cultures have emphasized the role of mental wellness in overall health for centuries, in the US it has only been relatively recently that more attention is being given to developing our mental, not just physical, strength. Increased urbanization takes us further away from nature and its healing properties; the cure is to reconnect with the Earth and fresh, open air spaces. Indeed, scientific research shows time outdoors does in fact deliver a boost to our mental states, and that regular visits are essential to our overall health.
Like forest bathing and hygge, friluftsliv (pronounced free-looft-SLEEVE), is another culture’s beautiful offering to our collective health. The citizens of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, experts in outdoor living with their vast natural vistas and all-weather culture, give us friluftsliv, the concept of “free air life” and its beneficial effect on our health. The word roughly translates to “open air living” and refers to the practice of getting outdoors in nature to enjoy its healing properties and be invigorated.
A dose of friluftsliv is also good for generating ideas, increasing creativity and providing a deeper sense of purpose. Companies in the Nordic countries know the value of friluftsliv and often program it into their workdays, some actually blocking off more than an hour a week for employees to get outside. Google and Apple have tried similar incentives. More companies are designing green outdoor spaces for eating and working.
At its core, friluftsliv is about taking a breath and connecting with the awe and beauty of nature; you don’t have to hike or perform strenuous workouts outdoors to enjoy the benefits. A wide, natural view easily evokes feelings of awe, but an observant soul can gather the multitudes of miracles in the smallest of backyards. Sit out on the patio with a cup of tea and listen to Mother Nature working around you. If you are urban bound, travel up to the top of the building and gaze upon the far horizon, or find a peaceful rooftop garden. Talk a walk though city parks and green spaces.
A regular bout out in nature is more necessary than we may think. Take some friluftsliv time outdoors to get out of your head and out into the wonder that is our home.
More reading about finding balance the Swedish way