Would you say that you’re an outdoor person? As plant lovers and gardeners, I would guess that many of you would answer ‘yes’ – but does that still apply when it’s windy, raining, dull or even just a little bit cold? Unfortunately, weather is part and parcel of nature and the outdoors, so if you want to get a little better at withstanding the elements, then you need to get to know the concept of ‘friluftsliv’.
What is friluftsliv?
A Norweigan phrase supposedly first coined by Henrik Ibsen (19th century playwright known for A Doll’s House and Peer Gynt), friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-leev) can be directly translated as ‘free air life’. This concept is all about celebrating the outdoors come rain or shine – no holing up indoors to finish off longstanding DIY projects until it all blows over!
In the UK, we’ve become experts at staying inside. Although we all love balmy summer days in the garden, even a hint of a dark cloud will herd us indoors. Before you can say ‘light shower’, we’re frantically scrambling to bring in the washing or pack away the garden cushions, just to head back out once the sun returns. It seems so counterintuitive for a country that often experiences the typical weather of four different seasons in one day.
Norwegians, on the other hand, live in a country where the coldest temperature has in the past reached -51C and some cities, such as Bergen, experience 95″ of rainfall per year. Meanwhile, July temperatures can soar in to the late twenties – and let’s not forget Norway’s midnight sun that cannot be endured without a blackout blind. Despite all this, they have found a way to spark joy in their unique weather system with friluftsliv.
How to adopt the concept of friluftsliv
So, you’re an expert at hygge and you take part in fredagstaco every week, but friluftsliv is one Norwegian habit that anyone with access to the outdoors can adopt – it’s not just for explorers, climbers or extreme sport enthusiasts!
All you need to do to get involved is to actively enjoy, appreciate and immerse yourself in the outdoor world. This can mean going for a bike ride, taking a walk along a country path, sitting and listening to the sound of the surf at the beach, or even forest bathing. Most importantly, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s sunny, drizzling or a little windy – as long as it’s safe to leave the house (I won’t be held responsible for those that venture out for a walk during a tornado)!
This is especially true in winter, when many of us stay inside due to cold temperatures and short daylight hours. Instead of keeping a positive mindset when it comes to the weather, we reject it, maintaining a state of almost-hibernation until the daffs begin to bloom. This is why so many of us get colds or the flu; by staying inside, we’re not strengthening our immune systems, probably not undertaking an appropriate amount of exercise, and we’re trading fresh air for stale, recycled oxygen riddled with airborne bacteria. Even just a 10 minute walk per day could do a world of good!
Here are a few ideas to help you take part in friluftsliv today:
- Pick berries in your garden
- Walk or jog around a park
- Go on a walking date instead of heading to a restaurant or bar
- Have your morning coffee outside on your patio/balcony/doorstep
- Cycle around a forested area
- Take part in paddleboarding, kayaking or canoeing along a river
- Fly a kite
- Grab some binoculars and go bird watching
- Get up early to see the sunrise
And a few important things to remember:
- Put your phone or other devices on silent so as not to disturb your time in nature
- Take it slowly – appreciate the world around you
- Be present and don’t dwell on things that will take your attention away
Is this why Norwegians are so happy?
Although we can’t generalise the entire population of a country, Norway has ranked in the top six happiest countries in the world for at least the last six years. By comparison, the UK hasn’t ranked any higher than 13th place.
On top of Norway’s excellent welfare system, good health care and generally low crime rates, optimistic and positive concepts such as friluftsliv could be another reason why this country’s population is supposedly much happier than many others’.
Even in a world where a pandemic has changed our lifestyles so drastically, we could use friluftsliv to shift our focus from the negatives to the positives, rebalance our wellbeing and reconnect with nature.
Could you see yourself adopting friluftsliv into your daily routine? Leave a comment below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.