It’s very unlikely that you haven’t heard of the Danish concept “hygge” over the past few years — particularly during wintertime. Pronounced “hoo-ga”, it can’t be translated into one specific word but is more about “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” That’s according to Denmark’s official tourism site, VisitDenmark.
Hygge is said to be good for coping with SAD — seasonal affective disorder, not just generally being sad (though it can still help with the latter!). According to Fernwood Magazine, happiness researchers consistently rate Denmark as having the happiest people on Earth; this can be attributed to — you guessed it — hygge.
But this isn’t the only Nordic term that’s taken off in recent years. “Friluftsliv”, an expression — sorry, philosophy — hailing from Norway, is the latest pursuit in terms of mental health. As for pronunciation? It’s “free-loofts-liv”.
And when it comes to translations, this one’s a bit simpler: outdoor life. Or, as the Norweigan tourism website declares, “It’s a commitment to celebrate time outdoors, no matter your age or physical condition, and regardless of the season and weather forecast.”
As the page says, it’s not just extreme activities like skiing and hiking, but simple ones that would be just at home in cottagecore: berry picking, walking the dog, spending time in a hammock. It’s actually enshrined in Norwegian law, called ‘Friluftsloven’, which includes “the right to roam“.
Stylist UK writes that friluftsliv is also recommended as a solution to SAD and winter blues; nine out of 10 Norwegians report they feel less stressed and in a better mood when spending time in nature.
But friluftsliv isn’t limited to one season or one type of weather — these Scandis get out year-round, regardless of the weather. Or as the well-known Norwegian rhyme goes (in rhymes in Norwegian, we promise): “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”
Studies also back up the importance of nature on our mental health. This includes a study that shows how a regular dose of nature can improve mental health outcomes; another indicated that walking once a week in a forest or “green space” can help people have a stronger sense of coherence, which indicates the mental capabilities for realising and deal with stress.