Living with Friluftsliv

“When we walk into a grove of trees or under an open sky, the magic of nature takes over and the heaviness of life lifts just a little”

Natassja Cassinerio

Being comfortable…being at peace takes practice and a special combination of elements for each person. For some, this may include the breath of a mountain top breeze or the symphony of a spring rainstorm. Norwegians call this type of peace, friluftsliv.

The Norwegian term “friluftsliv” is an embodiment of the wonders of nature.

What is Friluftsliv?

Friluftsliv, is a word coined in 1859 by Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen. It loosely translates to “free air life,” and signifies a fundamental understanding of the healing effects of nature.

Historically, it was used to encourage and discuss the value of spending time in remote locations for one’s spiritual and physical wellbeing. Today, the phrase is mostly used by people in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway (mostly Scandinavian areas). It is now used in reference to activities ranging from a morning jog in the woods to biking to work.

Many people are familiar with the word “hygge”. This term became popularized outside of Scandinavian cultures in the last decade or so to describe contentment and coziness during the colder months of the year. Typically this is achieved through indoor warmth and creature comforts.

Friluftsliv is similar by encouraging contentment and wellness but through nature. Being immersed in the outdoors has always been prominent in the Nordic cultures. Today, this appreciation for the outdoors is reflected in business policies. For instance, many Scandinavian companies make work hours for their employees flexible. Swedes are encouraged to use daylight hours to adventure outside and spend time with their family.

Nevertheless, even in societies that incorporate outdoors time in their business hours and more, friluftsliv is still at risk to succumbing to technology. Some Scandinavians are worried that the younger generations are losing interest in finding the joy of just being in nature. Young entrepreneurs have a hard time disconnecting from business hours, similar to Americans (probably not quite as severe though…hopefully).

However, other Nordic persons believe that friluftsliv will live on as long as it continues to be encouraged. One writer made the argument that I think many Americans including myself can take into consideration,

“If you have time to watch Game of Thrones on Netflix, you also have time to be outdoors. It’s a matter of making choices” -Angeliqa Mejstedt

Our lives are obviously filled with choices and those choices are what define us as the cliché goes. Why not use one of those choices to get outside and experience the healing and energizing qualities nature offers?

How I am Living with Friluftsliv:

The outdoors have always been a place of comfort for me. When my parents would bring me on hikes when I was a baby, I would ride in a backpack. Some babies in backpacks sleep, some cry, some dance, and some look flat out bored; I sang. I was happiest outside and I’ve carried a love for nature into my adulthood. I still sing on the trail, now it’s more to keep bears away though… 🙂

Friluftsliv perfectly embodies my love for nature. Free air life. To live in the free air. To be free.

Finding this word has given me new inspiration to get back outside doing the things I enjoy and reaping the benefits of the free air life. Being in nature sparks me to live in the present and feel all that is around me.

Just yesterday, I decided to go on a trail run with my mom. I had not gone on a trail in about a month at this point. The run was renewing because yes cardio is great for clearing a mind, but it was also splendid to be back in nature. Looking back now I notice that our conversations focused on our surroundings.

With the first step on the trail we discussed the slick patterned ice below our feet. As we progressed, I saw the delicate structures of the ground icicles (I’m not sure what else to call them). The trail must have been muddy from the melted snow, but we were there early in the morning when it was 23oF so the mud was frozen. The ice formed in vertical rectangles, spiked along the trail. They were sturdy enough to push up deep beds of leaves, yet fragile under foot. While running, I focused on the sound of the ground icicles shattering.

When crossing a bridge over a stream, we both remarked at how high the water was compared to the last time we were there. I breathed in the stream’s moisture. The early morning sun reflected off of the wide creek turning the trail into a stage with a followspot.

As the morning warmed, so did the icy mud. Every few steps one would skid to a stop to avoid mud, while the other (typically me) would be a tad oblivious and plow right through. This fiasco led to fits of laughter throughout the whole run.

I was there. I was present.

Afterwards, I felt open and refreshed. I felt new even though it was not a perfect day; it was cold and muddy aka not ideal. I don’t think friluftsliv means getting outside every single day or on the days that are utterly bone chilling and pouring rain.

However, reflecting on yesterday’s trail run and friluftsliv re-inspired me to appreciate nature and get outside as often as I can, even on those busy work days…ESPECIALLY on the busy days. Even if it’s just a short walk down to the mailbox, up and down the street with a pet or family member, or simply stepping outside your door to feel a breeze across your face, nature can bring so much peace.

This week, I learned about friluftsliv. Maybe this word will inspire you to get outside more like it did for me, and maybe it won’t and that is okay. Do the things that bring you peace, but if you’re struggling to find your recipe to bliss, maybe try getting outside if you haven’t already.

Be present. Find your icy, muddy, sunny trail.

Try living with friluftsliv.


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