Scandi girls set the bar when it comes to healthy living – as a Health Editor, I swear by these 5 hacks

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Scandi health hacks: Ally trying hacks such as hiking, plants and more
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If there's one place in the world that seems to have work-life balance and all-round wellbeing down to a tee, it's Sweden. Known for its Northern Lights, coffee culture and laid-back, laissez-faire approach to life, Sweden has long been hailed as one of the happiest places to live. 

Case in point: Nordic and Scandinavian countries were voted happiest in the world for eleven years between 2012 and 2023. As per the UN's World Happiness Report, those who live there have the best economic, governmental, and societal wellbeing and, as a result, happiness levels. Last year, Finland snatched the crown for the sixth time, with Denmark and Iceland coming in close behind in second and third place.

There's something about the Scandi way of life that's always appealed to me, as a Health Editor - they seem to prioritise time in nature and slow living more than, say, the UK or the US. Picture it: winters spent skiing and dog-sledging through icy forests, summers kayaking under sparkling aurora borealis, and the in-between spent cosying up by the fire after long, soul-soothing hikes. 

I'm a big fan of nature, and it seems the Scandinavians are, too - and while we might not have the option of sweating out our sins in an outdoor sauna or taking picturesque daily ice-lake dips in most parts of the UK, you don't need to up sticks and relocate to incorporate a dose of Scandi wellness into your day-to-day. There are ways to up your Scandi from wherever you live. Below, I share the five Scandi-inspired health hacks that I myself do every day as a Health Editor. Ready to give them a go? 

Don't miss our guides to the best sunrise alarm clocks, best wellness planners, and an explainer on mindful movement, while you're here.

5 Scandi health hacks I swear by as a Health Editor

1. Taking regular breaks

You'll have heard of "fika" - and no, it's not just a coffee break, rather, a state of mind and an important part of Swedish culture. "It means making time for friends, loved ones, neighbours and colleagues and sharing that time over a cup of coffee and a sweet treat," shares Scandi lifestyle expert Catharina Björkma. "As a ritual focused on taking a pause to refresh the mind and reconnect with others, fika can do wonders for wellbeing when practised as part of a daily routine."

My own version of "fika" is my daily lunch break, where I go for a ten to fifteen-minute walk in the sunshine and call a family member to catch up with them. Sometimes, I take a warm cup of tea in my KeepCup with me. Taking a break from my desk and switching my brain from work to social mode boosts my mood and helps me maintain my focus when I do get back to my desk.

"Sharing this experience with a family member, friend, or colleague – whether in content silence, reminiscing over a fond memory, opening up about a worry, or loudly laughing to a shared joke – will help brighten even the dreariest of days," explains the expert. "So, no matter your schedule or what you have planned, just remember that you’re never too busy for fika."

Do note, as well - while commonly associated with the working week, there’s no reason not to enjoy fika at the weekend. It's essentially the act of taking a break, enjoying a hot drink or some downtime, and catching up with a friend, colleague, or loved one. After all, taking time out of any day to pause and socialise will only boost your mood.

2. Prioritising sunlight first thing

Ever heard of gökotta? "The Scandi principle of gökotta is centred around the idea of rising with the sun and spending the first moments of the day outside taking in nature," shares Björkma. "It's about simply being, having a moment of stillness and peace before the necessary productivity of the day begins."

I always wake up with my sunrise alarm clock and, when I have the time, take ten minutes in the garden to stretch and breathe or go for a walk around my local park. I always find my mood is better and my energy more stable when I make the time to do so, and science shows why, with research highlighting the benefits of sunlight first thing span regulating your body's internal clock system (aka your circadian rhythm) and resetting your sleep-wake cycle.  "Spending time in nature is hugely beneficial to our mental and also physical health, and has been linked to lower blood pressure and increased levels of happy hormones," she goes on.

Keen to give it a go? "There are no hard and fast rules on how to do it," shares the expert. "It could be a quiet cup of coffee in the garden first thing, a short walking workout around the block, or opening the window and looking outside as you wake up. The goal is simply to stop and feel the fresh air and listen to the early morning sounds before starting your day."

Fun fact for you: in Sweden, where the practice originates, it is customarily done from Ascension Day in May until Midsummer in June, a hugely popular holiday in Sweden. "That said, it can be done all year round as a way to prioritise a calm mind first thing by starting your day with nature," she shares.

3. Sleeping with two duvets

Bear with me on this one - because it's actually game-changing if you struggle to sleep or have a different bedtime than your partner.

TikTok went crazy for this Scandinavian sleep hack last year and, if you're dreaming of a good night's kip, I can personally attest to it. 

Ever woken up with approximately an eighth of the duvet because your partner is a duvet hogger? Well, Scandinavi has the answer. A TikToker from Sweden, Cecilia Blomdahl, shared a video last year of how she and her partner sleep - and that's with two duvets instead of one. That's right - the couple sleeps with a duvet each meaning they both have just the right amount of coverage and warmth.

We started this hack as a way of staying warmer in the winter months, but it quickly shifted from us both sleeping with questionable amounts of both to being fully snuggly with a duvet each. While you might not think this will make a massive difference to your health, trust me when I say it's boosted my sleep quality tenfold. 

The TikToker shared: "I think the way we do our beds is pretty common in Europe, but it's completely different to America. We have two duvets - I could never live with one." 

One fan commented: "I could never share my duvet, it’s a Scandinavian thing." 

4. Embracing balance

Otherwise known as "lagom," Swedish culture embraces prioritising balance in all aspects of your life, which I'm sure is something we're all aiming for. 

As an eternally busy Editor and runner who loves training for marathons alongside balancing a hectic work and social schedule, balance has been a focus of mine for the last year now - but it wasn't a few years ago, and led to exhaustion, lack of focus, and low mood.

Things like scheduling in No Plan Sundays (the clue is in the name), turning my phone off in the evenings and opting for a book, instead, and prioritising weekend downtime have transformed my work-life balance, as has saying no more often. It's such a simple step and might feel weird to begin with, but I've found means I'm more present, relaxed and personable when I do say yes to social events (a win, win). 

"Lagom means "just the right amount' and refers to the need to prioritise balance in all aspects of life, including balancing your needs against the modern expectation to be "always on" and available," shares Björkma. "This could be as simple as saying no to going out two nights in a row, switching notifications off on your phone to enjoy a delicious and uninterrupted home-cooked meal, reading your favourite book on the sofa, or even just enjoying the luxury of an early night."

It ties in with the Swedish concept of "mys", which Björkma adds is centred around the restorative benefits of actively setting aside time to unwind and hunkering down in the calming, cosy comforts of home. "Winter is the perfect time to embrace mys and enjoy the mental reset it gives you," she continues.

Picture a crackling fire, soft blankets, comfy clothes, and delicious food and you're on the right track. Bottom line: Far from hiding away at home, lagom is about making choices that benefit your health and wellbeing in the long term. Sounds good, right? 


♬ original sound - Ally Head | Runner & Health Ed

5. Having house plants

I've long loved a house plant - I feel like they bring the outside in and brighten up any space. 

So does Björkman, who shares that adding house plants to your space can boost happiness, endorphins, and mood. "Filling the home with plants inevitably helps enhance your connection to nature, but that's not all - house plants benefit your wellbeing in a multitude of ways," the expert shares. 

Like? "Plants have air-purifying qualities, absorb CO2 and release oxygen back into their surroundings, while also filtering harmful chemicals," shares the pro. "Not just that, but plants also release water vapour into the air and increase humidity levels, which can help with respiratory and skin health by counteracting the drying effects of heating systems. Finally, they can also help to reduce airborne dust levels – fantastic for those who suffer from allergies."

The expert goes on to add that research has shown house plants can reduce stress and aid relaxation, something I definitely benefit from at home. I personally love keeping houseplants for how they make my home feel - cosy, comfortable, and homely. I also like the fact that plants help to purify the air in my central London flat, working round the clock to filter harmful chemicals.

Now, question - will you be giving any of the above a go? 

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Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.