There are many wonderful reasons to visit Scandinavia from glacial wildernesses to clean, friendly cities. You may set aside several nights to enjoy the haunting beauty of Aurora Borealis and the Midnight Sun in-between days of hiking or skiing.
You may be there to enjoy history and culture or hopping from one country to the next and enjoying as much of the excitement as you can take in. While there, you may see plenty of evidence supporting the claim that Scandinavia is the happiest place on earth, and maybe you’ll pick up some of the healthy practices that contribute to that happiness.
Make Time for Rejuvenation and Resting
Time set apart for socializing with family and friends is at the top of the priority list for many Scandinavians. In countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, for example, working professionals have between three to five weeks of vacation time with more when children come. Scandinavians will tell you that this commitment to enjoying their lives is one of the top reasons behind their happy outlooks.
While on vacation in Scandinavia, you can take this commitment to heart. Put down your cellphone; don’t check up on those emails. Instead, cut out distractions and really focus on the activities you’ve planned. Reach out to new friends (many Scandinavians speak English,) and initiate conversations with other travelers as well as the locals.
Make Time for Hot Springs and the Sauna
There are some great health benefits to spending time in geothermal water, such as reducing stress, pain, and even skin irritations. Additionally, the warmth boosts blood circulation. If you don’t have access to hot springs at home, you can enjoy many similar benefits from soaking in a hot bath:
- Boosts your mood
- Helps you sleep better
- Reduces your blood pressure
- Improve your immune system
In the sauna, spend time indulging in a physical and mental cleanse, letting the steamy warmth flush out toxins and strengthen your immune system. Some claim that sitting in the sauna contributes to healthy weight loss. Again, you can enjoy many of these benefits at home with a warm, steamy bath.
Be Active and Get Outside
In Denmark, the number of bikes is higher than the number of people, and you’ll probably see more people biking around than traveling in cars. Bicycling isn’t just a way to get from one place to another in Scandinavia; it’s also a great form of exercise with a lot of health benefits, such as strengthening the core and lower body muscles and working out the heart. Other popular forms of exercise include walking (or Nordic walking,) hiking, and playing team sports for fun. One key component of being physically active is that it is part of the Scandinavian lifestyle, not a quick 30 to 60-minute period of exercise. It’s an enjoyable part of life and culture.
While it’s true that Scandinavian countries have very cold temperatures seasonally, it’s also true that people get outside in all types of weather. The idea that “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing” comes straight out of Scandinavia. Clean, fresh outside air is good for your health and Icelanders will tell you that breathing it will make you stronger. Getting outside is a great mood booster, so bundle up and enjoy some fun winter sports, such as skiing, or participate in community events.
Take Your Shoes Off Inside
Once you get home, take your shoes off and get serious about relaxing. Pulling on a pair of comfy socks or slippers signals your body that it is time to relax. Additionally, you’ll reduce the pollutants and dirt that you track inside.
Try a Scandinavian Diet
Scandinavians eat a lot of fish. Additionally, their meals include whole grains and root vegetables that are available seasonally. This diet is rich in protein, as well as antioxidants and omega-3s. Rye bread, with fewer sugars than in other types of bread, helps reduce appetites, and root vegetables help diners feel full sooner and longer.
Add a little bit (less than a tablespoon) of butter (not margarine) to your meat, soups, and pasta to make your food richer and leave you feeling a little more satisfied. Dairy fats tend to be healthier than others.
Don’t forget to add some berries to your meals when they are naturally available. At its most basic, this diet is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. If you’re willing to try new foods, you may want to check out Skyr, a dairy product that is typical of the Scandanavian diet.
Consider the idea of a hearty mid-day meal. Middag was initially eaten at noon, but today, many Scandinavians eat this meal in the early evening, such as 4 or 5 p.m. This early meal gives you plenty of time to let your food digest before you go to sleep. You don’t need to go to bed hungry; enjoy a small snack around 9:00 p.m.
While enjoying all the nature and city life that Scandinavia has to offer, don’t forget to pick up some of the healthy cultural habits common in these countries. You may find that some of your best souvenirs are the habits that you’ve brought home.
Kimberly Fisher is a Pursuitist contributor. As a freelance writer and on-camera host, Kimberly has traveled the world and has published over 400 articles in over 44 publications including Sherman's Travel, Huffington Post, JustLuxe, Luxury Lifestyles UK, eHow, Examiner, Food Wine Travel Magazine, Luxe Beat, NiteGuide, Ocean View, and USA Today. Disclosure: Kimberly is under contract with Casa Del Sol.