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Hygge vs. Nordic Living: Finding Happiness and Wellbeing

by Laura Donnelly on October 08, 2023

In this week's 'The Hygge at Home Podcast', we heard from the lovely Fiona McKinna. Fiona is the founder of Living a Nordic Life: helping people to live a simpler, cosier and more intentional life the Nordic way.  She lives in southern Norway with her Norwegian partner, their 3 children and numerous animals living a life that embraces Nordic living in aspect from being out in nature, living more sustainably and welcoming healthy Nordic habits.

Fiona McKinna

Fiona talks about how hygge and the Nordic lifestyle share some key principles like cosiness and simplicity. But there are some distinct differences in their approaches to cultivating happiness and wellbeing.

Hygge is focused on contentment through life’s simple comforts. It’s about surrounding yourself with warmth, candlelight, soothing textures, and loved ones. Enjoying a pastry with coffee, relaxing with a book, connecting with friends over board games – these cosy moments define hygge.

Nordic living also values minimalism and quality time with people you care about. But it’s more about finding wellbeing through connecting with nature, being physically active, and adopting healthy habits. Getting outside your comfort zone leads to growth. Fiona talks about three main components to living Nordicly:

Friluftsliv: Connecting with Nature

Friluftsliv translates to “free air life” and is core to the Nordic lifestyle. It’s the practice of spending regular time outdoors enjoying nature through activities like:

  • Hiking - Traversing wooded trails surrounded by fall foliage or freshly blanketed winter landscapes. Breathing the crisp air.
  • Skiing - Gliding through snow-covered hills and forests helps you feel present.
  • Swimming - Jumping into a frigid lake or sea heightens senses and invigorates.
  • Camping - Waking up to birdsong and a crackling campfire reconnects you with nature.
  • Biking - Cycling lakeside paths, coastlines, and mountain trails lets you actively see the beauty around you.
  • Foraging - Gathering mushrooms, berries, plants from forests offers a chance to reflect.
  • Gardening - Growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers gets your hands in the earth.

No matter the season or weather, Nordic people embrace the outdoors as a path to wellbeing. Time spent “fri luft” reduces stress, elevates mood, and cultivates gratitude each day.

Eating the Nordic Way

Nordic living teaches moderation and mindfulness around food. Listening to your body’s nutritional needs rather than eyes and cravings leads to wellbeing. An occasional treat tastes that much better!

At its core, Nordic living is about caring for yourself holistically – not just indulging but challenging yourself to build lifelong healthy habits. Hygge and Nordic ideals go hand-in-hand to create an uplifting approach to life.

The Nordic diet focuses on whole, unprocessed foods - especially those locally-grown and in season. You'll find:

  • Hearty grains like rye, oats and barley. They provide fiber and fuel.
  • Fresh greens and cruciferous veggies. The cooler climate lends to growing hearty plants.
  • Lean proteins including fish, poultry, legumes. Salmon is especially popular.
  • Berries and fruits grown in the Northern European climate. Full of vitamins.
  • Dairy like yogurt, cheese, and skyr. Fermented foods aid digestion.
  • Limited red meat consumption. Meat is viewed more as a side than main dish.

Treats in moderation!

While cosy baked goods and treats are enjoyed, they are not part of the daily diet. Pastries and sweets are reserved for special occasions and social gatherings. This prevents overindulging and promotes balance.

The Nordic diet is about mindfulness - listening to your body's true needs rather than cravings. By eating clean, natural foods focused on quality over quantity, the body feels nourished. Wellbeing stems from within.

Bringing Hygge and Nordic Living Together

Hygge and Nordic living share the common goal of cultivating happiness and wellbeing. They simply represent two paths to get there.

Hygge provides us comfort, contentment, and community through simple indulgences and cosy moments. Nordic living connects us to nature, health, and vitality through friluftsliv outdoor adventures and clean eating.

Rather than view them as opposing lifestyles, we can bring hygge and Nordic ideals together for balance:

  • Gather round a fire with friends after an active day outdoors skiing or hiking.
  • Cook a nourishing soup using local vegetables and whole grains on a snowy evening.
  • Allow yourself a decadent pastry while socialising, then get re-energised with some fresh air.
  • Declutter your peaceful, hygge-inspired home to feel grounded like the Nordic minimalists.
  • Treasure both a cosy night of board games and an invigorating outdoor adventure.

Hygge and Nordic living complement each other beautifully - the pleasures of comfort and the vitality of nature. Here’s to living both happily and healthily!


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