Difference Between Hygge and Friluftsliv

What is the Difference Between Hygge and Friluftsliv?

Comfort is so much more than a trend — it’s essential in this fast-paced world that finds most people busily tending to some responsibility or another. Ultimately, comfort can be considered a form of self-care. It lends you the much-needed break you need from the grind, and it can be transformative in the way that it recenters you and helps you remain grounded amid chaos.

Two popular lifestyle trends, hygge and friluftsliv, revolve specifically around strategies that redefine wellbeing. If you’re at all familiar with hygge, you might have visions of gently flickering candles and fluffy down comforters dancing around in your head — and you wouldn’t be far off. While friluftsliv also encourages the same sense of peace and tranquility, it’s not quite the same. Here’s how they differ and how they can benefit your life.

What is Hygge?

Cozy. Warm. Inviting. Comforting. Relaxed. Cozy. Content. Simple. Snuggly. Joyful. And, yes, don’t forget cozy. Hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” is a Danish term derived from “hugga,” the 16th-century Norwegian word for “comfort” or “console.” As the 18th century came to a close, Danes had rediscovered the term and made it an integral part of their lifestyles. It essentially describes making space and creating moments of warmth, comfort, and goodness in life. In short, it means prioritizing your well-being in order to live happier and more fully.

Unsurprisingly, the concept is incredibly popular in Denmark. In 2016, the trend somehow managed to sweep through the United Kingdom before eventually becoming something of a social media sensation in the years that followed. What’s important to note, however, is that hygge is hardly a fleeting trend. In fact, an area that’s often overlooked in locations outside of Denmark is hygge’s direct link to social connections.

“Yes, you can sit in hygge alone with books,” says Claus Elholm Andersen, the Paul and Renate Madsen assistant professor of Scandinavian Studies in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic. “But it’s usually with friends.”

Hygge, then, isn’t just about dimming the lights, soaking in the bubble bath, slathering on a face mask, then curling up against a throw pillow and binge-watching your favorite show — although they’re all good starting points that can help you find that comfortable space where you’re at your most serene. The more specific concept of hygge, though, is in finding that type of tranquility and comfort in a sheltered group with people who help you feel safe, welcome, and loved. There’s security in hygge.

How else can you live a hygge life? Consider these easy-to-implement ideas:

1) Curl up by the fireside in your flannel pajamas with family

2) Prepare your favorite sweet treats for the people you love the most

3) Enjoy a relaxed picnic in the park with a dear friend

4) Prepare a mug of hot chocolate for your winter visitors

5) Go sledding with your nearest and dearest

6) Enjoy a spa day at home with your best friend

7) Write some thoughtful letters and send cards to loved ones

What is Friluftsliv?

Friluftsliv and hygge are often mentioned in the same breath. Pronounced “free-loofts-liv,” the concept is just as widely embraced in Norwegian culture. Translating to “open-air living,” it’s a reference to the Nordic preference for spending time outside no matter what the conditions might be. It was the playwright Henrik Ibsen who first introduced the term to the national lexicon, using it to call attention to the benefits of spending time outside — primarily in remote areas — to enhance overall well-being.

That’s been proven time and again by Scandinavians who have fully adopted it as a core part of their lifestyles. “It’s a very big part of our lives,” says Bo Wahlund, who organizes a group of enthusiastic joggers and walkers in Sweden. “It strengthens our mental and physical abilities.”

It’s this boost that essentially makes friluftsliv the hygge of the great outdoors. Nordic life is, after all, centered largely around spending as much quality time outside as possible. In definition, it’s the very antithesis of hygge — it’s not so much about warm and cozy as it is about fresh and robust. There’s room for both lifestyles in the world, though, especially given that both eventually come back to the same premise: that emotional and physical wellbeing are boosted through these lifestyles that focus on recentering the body, mind, and soul.

People in Norway have practiced friluftsliv for centuries just as much as they have hygge. That fine balance brings both a significant appreciation for the outside world and a desire for a constant connection with others. Friluftsliv is unique in that there’s never a bad excuse to go outside — and there’s no such thing as a day that’s too cold when you’ve got a warm down winter coat to keep you toasty.

Here’s how you can make friluftsliv an integral part of your life:

1) Walk through a nature reserve or a park on a cool day

2) Go stargazing in a park or on a mountain on a clear night

3) Take a walk before you have your first cup of morning coffee

4) Eat your lunch by the nearest lake or river

5) Redecorate your outdoor space to encourage backyard living

6) Bike to and from work if it’s a reasonable distance

7) Go on a nature walk with the kids and rediscover natural beauty

8) Take a bike ride even on a brisk winter day

Finding the Balance

What’s most important about both hygge and friluftsliv is ultimately the bottom line: Both were created with the intention to help you switch off and switch gears. Spending more time on yourself allows you to recharge, reassess, and refocus your energies. Living a more complete and well-rounded life can only begin when you are at your very best. Both hygge and friluftsliv aim to help you find that within yourself.

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