Finnish everyday life in the middle of nature
Mari Pennanen, SaimaaLife Media
Mari Pennanen, SaimaaLife Media
Finland has been named for the 6th time the happiest country in the world by the United Nations World Happiness Report. Our happiness comes from many things, but if you ask me -or I believe many other Finns too- one of the biggest reasons is our ability to integrate nature connection easily into our everyday life. About 70% of our land is covered with trees. That makes Finland the most forested country of Europe. We are a land of thousand lakes and nature inspired people.
I live in the small village of Punkaharju in Saimaa, Eastern Finland about a four hour train travel from Helsinki. It’s a place where -like most places in Finland- you can get wellbeing from nature right from your doorstep and from dawn to dusk if you want. I belong to those who want. Let me open up my everyday life.
My day in Saimaa starts from the lake. In summertime it’s open water swimming, in wintertime ice swimming. It wakes my body, and it wakes my mind. And it’s not any kind of water where I am able to swim; it is the purest in the world according to Unicef. Lakes, ponds, rivers, islands and coastal areas form about 314 604 kilometres of water lines in Finland so there are plenty of opportunities for many people to do the same. If it’s not a lake where I start my day, then it is a forest walk nearby my home. Also here, according to the World Health Organisation, I am privileged to breathe in the cleanest air in the world.
There are about 5.5 million inhabitants in Finland and our land area is 338 000 km2. This makes the average population density to be only 18 inhabitants per km2. It means that we have a lot of free space around us. Like many Finns, I also live in a detached house where I can enjoy the blue sky, listen to bird singing, and follow the life of squirrels right in my garden. It is so luxurious! There is also mowing in summer, raking in autumn and snow work in winter to do outdoors. Some feel they are laborious tasks, but I think they are both great exercise as well as good ways to recharge myself and connect with nature and get all the gifts of it to my wellbeing.
Ways to enjoy nature externally in my everyday life as a Finn are many but so are internal possibilities too. By global standards Finnish nature is one of the cleanest. It means that food that comes from clean nature is clean too. Our Everyman’s rights increase the possibilities to enjoy nature internally. They allow people not only to roam in Finnish nature but also to pick up wild berries, mushrooms and herbs from the forests. Foraging is a part of my annual life circulation. In summertime I eat wild food fresh. For the wintertime I store it. It makes it possible to start my day year-round with food from nature, or enjoy homemade funnel chanterelle soup with rye bread for dinner with my kids in winter. With the soup we drink tap water that is also among the highest quality in the world. In Finland, actually, tap water has been found to be significantly cleaner than bottled water. WOW, I say!
I have a possibility to live close to nature, but I can enjoy nature when I’m working too. I work mainly at home so I can breathe in the inspiring and recharging energy from nature also at my desk. However, from many other office windows in Finland some green and blue can be seen too. So, here I’m definitely not the only one either. Years ago I lived in Helsinki and worked right in the city center. Also there blue views and green parks were present both on my way to work and in everyday life.
The closest town in Punkaharju is Savonlinna, the home of world famous Savonlinna opera festival and Olavinlinna castle. When I drive there, I can basically see only lake and forest sceneries. To the closest grocery in Punkaharju village I cycle. Green and blue are the main colors to see then too – in autumn it is naturally various “ruska” colors, and in winter white winter wonderland.
I prefer exercising outdoors rather than indoors. Four Finnish nature seasons are seen in my hobbies as well; in winter I love to do cross-country skiing, in spring it’s cycling, in summer canoeing and in autumn forest walking and running.
My year-round source of wellbeing is the sauna. I am happy about my wood-heated sauna. Partly because “löyly” is better in the wood-heated sauna compared to the electric heated one, partly because I love to make firewood. I consider making and carrying them indoors to sauna or fireplace not only relaxing but also as a way to keep myself grounded and connected with simple and natural way of living.
To see the seasons change is luxurious. To see the amount of daylight change during the day and through different seasons is also great. I feel they are meaningful things as well in human life. Many times I’ve thought that if I’d live in some big urban metropolis I could not have those things in my life. At least not so clearly and in concrete. So I feel that living in the middle of nature supports having a healthy natural rhythm in life. I also think it helps to reflect on myself and live more mindfully. To see in one’s everyday life nature’s seasonal changes are a good reminder that life in general is constantly changing. At least for me it does that I live more in the present moment. And when I’m able to live more mindfully, I live deeper and get more out of all the colors it offers to me. I also reflect my own aging and growth as a human being to nature’s growth. That is rewarding, and supports my wellbeing too.
Nature is integrated into my personal life, and many Finns’ life, in many ways. A possibility for nature connection brings quality to our everyday life. Also to many of us it is one of the biggest anchors and sources of our health and happiness.
How about if you want to have something similar to your life too?
Well, welcome to visit Saimaa and Finland! My lakeside house is not for rent but there are thousands of fully-equipped lakeside and forest surrounded cottages in Saimaa that are. That is one good way to get a piece of Finnish nature inspired way of life for yourself. Does your work allow remote work? You are welcome to live and work in our rental cottages for a longer period too. Long stay travel allows you to integrate yourself to the local community better and get even more information and inspiration about the nature inspired way of living.
If travelling to Saimaa and Finland is possible only in the future, I recommend you to ask yourself; How could I integrate more nature in my days from dawn to dusk? After all, no matter where you are living, it is possible; For example, start by buying a flower bucket home. Have a walk in the park after your work days. Head for the woods on the weekends. Start following (Finnish) nature inspired lifestyle blogs with nature filled photos, videos and tips. Put yourself to sleep by listening to nature sound relaxation recordings. Ways are many.
Did you know that studies have shown that nature’s wellbeing effect on us humans is so strong that no matter what form nature takes it helps you to feel better? It does! So, choose #findyournature as the anchor of your health and happiness too! Like we Finns have done already for centuries.