Scandinavian countries are regularly ranked at the top of the healthiest and happiest countries in the world. So, what’s their secret? How do millions of people living with little sunlight and in some of the coldest regions become so physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy? Here are six Nordic health philosophies you can incorporate into your daily routine to improve your health, happiness, and contentment with life. Learn more about the 6 Scandinavian Health Philosophies We Should All Embrace.
The Scandinavian Diet
Health specialists everywhere agree that no diet is the best diet – and Scandinavians have embraced that philosophy wholeheartedly. As the name suggests, the Nordic diet simply focuses on eating food that is locally sourced and traditionally consumed in Scandinavian countries. Staples from the Scandinavian region include:
Whole grains like rye, barley, and oats
Berries and various fruits
0Legumes and root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and beans
Fish like herring, mackerel, and salmon
You won’t see much sugar, red meat, or processed foods in the Nordic diet. While those types of food in moderation don’t cause poor health, followers of this eating philosophy tend to focus on plant-based meals. If you want to shift to the Nordic diet, start with small changes in your diet so you have a better chance of sticking to the new lifestyle. Easy switches could include slowly cutting down your sugar intake, swapping out a meal with red meat for fish, or simply eating more vegetables throughout the day.
Everyone loves a good sauna session. Popular across Sweden and Norway, heated thermal baths are an excellent way to relax and revitalize yourself. They consist of a range of hot, cold and scented waters, all with different health-enhancing properties. The health benefits of regularly going to the sauna are plentiful. Studies have shown that a quick 30-minute sweat session in a sauna reduces blood pressure and even increases your heart rate to what it would be during a moderate workout. They’re also great for relieving stress and sweating unhealthy toxins out of your body.
Make sure you take a cold shower or hop into an ice bath after a sauna session. This helps to close your pores and also boosts your body’s circulation since the cold water forces your body to conserve heat. Not only does this help your skin’s texture health, but it also gives your cardiovascular system an extra boost.
A powerful part of the Scandinavian way of life is “friluftsliv”. Loosely translated, it means “free-air life” and focuses on living a healthy lifestyle that involves enjoying your place in the natural world. Practicing friluftsliv includes spending more time outdoors and in nature than other countries often do.
There are many health benefits to incorporating outdoor time into your daily routine. Not only does the fresh air do wonders for your lungs, your cardiovascular system and mental health also benefit from the exercise and mental reset.
Scandinavian countries have mastered the morning commute and daily workouts. Biking to work and being active throughout the day is thoroughly ingrained into the Scandinavian culture. Almost 30 percent of Danes and Swedes who live in cities bike to and from work on a daily basis, and it’s common to see friends get together for a yoga class instead of heading to the bar. Exercise is such a big part of the Nordic lifestyle that workplaces often also make efforts to get employees up and moving during the day.
If you want to incorporate the Scandinavian appreciation for daily movement into your life, you don’t have to change everything about your routine. Small changes like going on a hike during the weekend with friends, riding your bike to work once a week, or going to a yoga class can all help you get you moving and appreciating your body.
Scandinavian design is all about open spaces, minimalist and functional furniture, and bright homes. They don’t clutter their homes with unnecessary items—instead they only bring in furniture and objects that they will actually use and appreciate.
This doesn’t mean you have to strip your home to bare essentials and get rid of all your personal belongings to start incorporating Nordic minimalism into your life. Just start with a single object in your home. Take a page from minimalist Marie Kondo’s book, pick up an object you have, and ask yourself: does it spark joy? If the item in your home doesn’t spark joy, donate it. Decluttering your home will help you declutter your mind and help you spend time focusing on things in your life that actually do spark joy.
6 Scandinavian Health Philosophies We Should All Embrace, read further
Scandinavian countries don’t get a lot of sunlight—but the long, dark days and freezing temperatures don’t seem to get them down. Study after study has ranked Nordic countries as having some of the happiest people in the world. Their appreciation for and involvement in their local community may be a big part of their high happiness levels.
People living in Scandinavian countries lean on their communities and friend groups much more than other countries do. Spending time with yourself is important, but it’s also important for your mental and emotional health to carve out regular time with friends. That support system is crucial to getting through the difficult times in your life and having a happier overall mindset.
6 Scandinavian Health Philosophies We Should All Embrace, written exclusively for Daily Scandinavian by Emma Davis. As true digital nomad, Emma spends her time writing and traveling the globe in pursuit of her next great adventure. From travel guides to career advice, she hopes to help readers see the world as she experiences it – helping others craft a life where they can work hard and play often. Join the journey @Emma_G_Davis.