The Nordic concept of friluftsliv is all about living primarily in the great outdoors. Here’s how to add it to your day in the smallest of ways.

By Mary Anderson
May 19, 2021
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Everyone seems to be craving greens these days. Back in April 2017 BP (before the pandemic), in a nationwide study of 12,000 adults and children titled "The Nature of Americans," more than half of grown-ups admitted to spending less than five hours per week (about 45 minutes a day) in nature. Yet three-quarters of them also said that being in nature was among the more enjoyable aspects for them.

Things are changing to hit that spot: According to trail-finder website AllTrails, overall traffic on paths tripled in the last year. Much of that uptick was from first-timers hitting the dirt. Which is great news, considering that just 120 minutes per week of contact with the wild (whether in big chunks or steady drips) makes your chances of having good health or "high well-being" significantly greater than if you get no face time with Mother Nature, according to recent findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

And the Nordic concept of "friluftsliv" speaks to everything you desire right now: living open- air style and reaping nature's life-boosting benefits. Here, easy tips for reconnecting with your outdoorsy, friluftsliv-loving side. (The easiest step: Take your workout out of the living room and onto the grass.)

Woman sitting in nature
Credit: mapodile/Getty

Think Small

One big kink is that we tend to think of nature as "geographically distant," according to the "Nature of Americans" study. The researchers suggested that if we refocus on engaging with green close to home, it could help us get our daily fill. "We have to recognize that there's so much you can do within a city," says George Weetman, a VP at outdoor brand Arc'teryx, which committed $1 million to organizations that help remove barriers to being in nature. "There are many special areas in urban settings that help calm you, like parks, front lawns, and waterfronts. We've taken those places for granted."

To add a friluftsliv touch to his day, Weetman uses a technique called habit stacking to ensure he gets his first dose of nature early: "I made a pact that I am going to have my morning coffee outdoors every day, no matter where I am. Small rituals have a huge benefit." Indeed, they do: "Japanese research suggests that in as little as 15 minutes in nature, your blood pressure starts to drop and your mood boosts," says Florence Williams, the author of The Nature Fix (Buy It, $14, amazon.com). (Related: These Health Benefits of Camping Will Turn You Into an Outdoor Person)

Make Room to Roam

"There will never be enough time in the day to do everything we want, but we have to make time for the things that pour back into us. Getting outdoors has to be a priority," says Jay Ell Alexander, CEO of Black Girls Run. "And when we write things down, it holds us accountable— there's a better chance that it will actually get done." Her own friluftsliv list: Go running. Go outside for 30 minutes. Go walking at lunch. "My tip is to make the outdoors home," she says. In other words, get in the mindset of considering nature as part of your floor space for everything from eating to exercise.

Have Your Escape Gear Handy

Whatever your idea of fresh-air, friluftsliv fun, make it frictionless by surfacing key accessories. "Keeping gear by the front door serves as a visual cue to get outside," says Andrew Altshule, the CEO of hiking and camping brand Outdoor Products. "I always have my hiking and recreation bag stocked with essentials like dry foods, water, sunscreen, a headlamp, and a portable battery pack for my tech." His go-to is the Outdoor Products Grand Park 2-in-1 Pack (Buy It, $58, walmart.com) with an insulated detachable compartment because it makes spontaneous picnics happen. (Related: Healthy Picnic Food Ideas for Every Meal and Summer Gathering)

Hoping to be an easy rider? Make your bike as accessible as possible, and plot a short loop you can do within an hour. "Then add to it as you have more time," says Ashley Korenblat, the CEO of Western Spirit Cycling and Outerbike. "But have something that takes only an hour, so you can jump into clothes, jump on the bike, and get back before anyone knows you were gone."

Let Your Senses Take the Lead

To get yourself hooked on the natural high of friluftsliv, use your eyes and ears. "The science really shows that there are three nature sounds that the human brain particularly responds to in a comforting or rejuvenating way: the sound of water, the sound of wind, and the sound of birds," says Williams. "Think about keying into environments that incorporate some of those sounds."

Sit by moving water, seek out the sound of rain, and tune in to the tweeting (with a lowercase "t"). Focus on sunsets rather than selfies. "Instead of taking 100 photos of the sun setting, think about living in that moment and soaking in the sunset," says Altshule. Feeling that sense of awe in a natural environment has been shown to boost happiness.

Try an Immersion for a Jump Start

"A great way to get started with an outdoor activity is to go on an introductory active vacation — in just one week you'll gain the experience you need to build a lifetime habit," says Korenblat. Outfitters like Western Spirit and Trek Travel lead cycling adventures; retailer REI offers outings from climbing to camping; and a service like Tentrr can get you up and camping without the group experience.

If the beauty doesn't have you coming back for more, consider the cool aftereffects of the friluftsliv activity: "One study showed there was a 50 percent improvement in creativity after three days outside," says Williams. Pack your bags!