Finland Lapland Pallas Yllastunturi by JuliaKivela

Brits not spending enough time outdoors in nature, reveals survey

Brits are sacrificing their happiness by not spending enough time connecting with the outdoors or going ‘au naturel’ in the sauna, according to a new YouGov survey commissioned by Visit Finland.

The survey revealed that while 67% of Brits would like to spend more time outdoors in nature in order to directly benefit their mental health and well-being, the British are not prioritising their wellness with 24% of people saying they hadn’t spent any time connecting with nature at all in the past month. For Londoners, this figure is at 29% but for those in the South it was 19%.

Men and women were split when it came to ways of improving their mental health and wellbeing with 14% of men believing more time spent playing video games was the way to go, with just 6% of women agreeing with it.

For women, spending time with the family (48% versus 36% for men), socialising with friends (47% versus 41% for men), cooking (29% versus 22% for men) and reading (51% versus 42% for men) were more important.

The study says 64% of Brits believe that the fewer hours of daylight negatively impacts their happiness. But the happy Finns are able to remain cheerful despite the sun not rising above the horizon for the two-month polar night period in the heart of winter in Northern Finland. The darkness in this season takes on shades of blue, violet and purple.

Finland is the happiest nation of the 156 countries studied in the UN 2018 World Happiness Report, while Britain is the 19th happiest nation. 

Joonas Halla, PR manager for Visit Finland, said: “The world might know Finland for Nokia phones, Angry Birds and heavy metal music, but our connection with nature, locally foraged foods and obsession with the sauna appear to be some of our better-kept secrets. We don’t have to make the time to do activities that make us happy, it is simply a part of our daily lifestyle. Nature is close by even in the capital of Helsinki where a cross-country skiing path awaits just around the corner.”

Only one in 10 Brits (9%) say that they would use a sauna every day if it was freely available to them, with nearly 28% saying that they would never use the sauna. For Finns, the sauna is an integral part of their culture, to relax, cleanse and socialise with friends and family. Saunas are said to encourage weight loss as well as reduce stress by improving circulation and even strengthening the immune system.

Finns reckon that relaxing in a sauna after a hard day’s work strengthens business relationships as well as friendships. There are reported to be more saunas than cars in the country so it is no surprise that sauna is the only Finnish word that has been adopted worldwide.

Only 5% of Brits claim to be willing to put on their swimwear and take a dip in wild waters during winter. However, Finns believe that swimming in wild waters is fantastic for physical and mental wellbeing as well as improving cardiovascular health.

Jaime Thurston, happiness expert and founder of 52 Lives, said: “As a society we are more aware than ever of the impact our busy schedules and urban lifestyles have on health and happiness and we clearly have some lessons to learn from the happy Finns. This research shows that while we are aware of the benefits of connecting with the great outdoors, and connecting with our friends and family, not enough of us are prioritising these things - to the detriment of our wellbeing. Perhaps it is time ditch the screens, and take some invigorating walks in the woods.”

Visit to find out more

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