The Scandi Wellness Concept That Boasts The Benefits Of Winter Outdoor Time

If you tend to hibernate indoors during the colder months, longing for the time of year to roll around when you can freely explore the great outdoors again, you may actually just need a shift in perspective. The Scandanvian wellness concept, friluftsliv, is all about enjoying nature year-round, no matter the weather. Friluftsliv translates to "free-air-living" and represents the culture's value on enjoying the beauty of the outdoors through walking, hiking, and gathering with friends through each season — even the winter months.


"We do it all year round. You get so much energy from it," scientist at the Nordic headquarters of pharmaceutical and cosmetics firm Perrigo Tina Holm told BBC. "We have a saying in Sweden: 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.'" We've all likely heard that spending time in blue and green spaces can benefit our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, per a 2020 study published in Environmental Research, and that's essentially what friluftsliv is all about. You can incorporate the concept of free-air-living into your life, no matter the upcoming forecast.

The benefits of free-air-living

With so many of us working in front of screens today, it can be tricky to switch gears and step out into the fresh air. However, spending time in the healing powers of the great outdoors has been shown to both reduce anxiety and improve cognition (via a 2015 study published in Landscape and Urban Planning). This can feel like even more of a hurdle if you live in an urban area and need to travel a distance in order to really unplug. But prioritizing the benefits of fresh air and spending time around lakes, trees, mountains, and streams can reduce stress and even enhance a sense of community connection, as you tend to run into others with the same goal in mind as you (via UC Davis Health). Bundling up if the temperatures are cool and wearing waterproof gear can also really expand the possibilities for outdoor recreation in the winter months. 


An unexpected benefit of spending more time out in the fresh air during the day is improved sleep and if you struggle with insomnia or anxious thoughts throughout the night, you'll know what a blessing that is. From your physical health to your mental health to your social life, heading outdoors can improve your overall health and wellbeing, so even if you increase your hours spent in nature a little at a time, the gains will be well worth it.

How to introduce more Friluftsliv into your life

If you tend to engage in indoor hobbies like crafting, reading, or video gaming, and aren't really one for outdoor recreation, this doesn't mean you can't reap the benefits of friluftsliv. While hiking, running, biking, kayaking, rafting, and rock climbing are all great ways to get fresh air, simply walking in the woods or meditating outside for a short time are just as valuable when it comes to free-air-living.


Essentially, extreme activities aren't the only route to enjoy the open air and the outdoors should be accessible to everyone. "It is our goal to include everyone in friluftsliv, including people with disabilities and psychological challenges and those on low incomes," secretary general of Norsk Friluftsliv in Norway Bente Lier told The Guardian. From eating lunch outside and walking your dog to meeting a friend for coffee and enjoying the companionship outdoors, there are many smaller routes to experiencing friluftsliv in daily living. And developing this habit could lead to expanding the ways in which you engage with the outdoors over time.