‘Friluftsliv’ Is the Mood-Boosting Nordic Concept for Embracing the Outdoors—Especially in the Winter

Scandinavian folks seem to know a thing or two about looking at everything through a positive, happy lens: Canceling plans for couch time is hygge, doing nothing is the art of niksen, and potentially stressful ski lodge vacays with your family is koselig. And then there’s Norway’s concept of friluftsliv. Just so you know, that’s pronounced [Googles "how do you pronounce 'friluftsliv'”] "free-loofts-liv," and the meaning of friluftsliv focuses on honoring the beautiful outdoorsespecially when the temperatures are frigid.

As someone whose seasonal affective disorder symptoms start drifting down once October hits, I’m always looking for ways to make winter more bearable. That's where getting resourceful and giving the Nordic concept of friluftsliv a try comes in. The pandemic years packed a great many lessons, and one of them for me was that home and happiness can be wherever and whatever we decide. So, let's embrace the meaning of friluftsliv, put on our snowshoes and skis (or just better winter gear) and find it.

"Anyone looking for a positive headspace during the winter should begin to see the outdoors as a space for endless possibilities. Our mental health increases when we feel challenged and like the world is our oyster.” —psychotherapist Jennifer Teplin, LCSW

“I would encourage anyone who's looking for a positive headspace during the winter months to begin seeing the outdoors as a space for endless possibilities, as well as a new way to challenge their current way of life,” says psychotherapist Jennifer Teplin, LCSW. “Our mental health increases when we feel challenged and like the world is our oyster.”

Experts In This Article

The first way to embrace the meaning of friluftsliv is being brave and bundled up enough to just get out into nature. Put on your gloves and your mask, and make a point to explore your local park. While research tends to suggest that green imagery is associated with reducing stress, you can still get in some sunshine. Lest we forget, light therapy is a great way to banish winter blues (shout out to my mood lamp, a real hero).

Even if you’re stuck in an urban area without nearby parks, though, you can still get yourself revved up to get outdoors with a friend, a loved one on FaceTime, or even on a solo walk to enjoy all of winter’s splendor. “A mindful walk includes using your senses to take in and notice what is going on around you,” says psychotherapist Michele Burstein, LCSW. “Utilizing outdoor restaurants to meet up with friends and family will be a great way to connect with others. It seems that many restaurants are using heaters and creating comfortable outdoor spaces for the upcoming chilly months.”

It’s also a great time to embrace some sort of winter cardio. If you really want to go HAM on embracing friluftsliv, you might want to take up skiing, hockey, or your childhood dream of being the next Tara Lipinski (just me?). Considering how roller skating has really taken off in recent years, I would be less than surprised if people started getting on blades a lot more this winter.

Ultimately, I’d be more jazzed to move to Norway and soak up all the Scandinavian positivity than spend another chilly season stateside. But enjoying the spirit of friluftsliv is a nice option to sort of split the difference. After all, when you look on the bright side in the winter time, you get to see how much light reflects off snow.

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