Everyman's Right
Written by Unity Line   

Are 72 hours in Swedish wilderness enough to combat stress? Researchers from the Karolinska Institute carried out an unusual experiment, the 72 Hour Cabin, to find out. Five participants spent three days leading a real Swede's life. The results were astonishing.

Scandinavia is more and more often associated with the severe beauty of nature, open space, and unlimited opportunities to commune with nature. It is not only the Promised Land for tourist tired of the pace of every-day life but also a great living space. Sweden leads the pack as it has been rated among top countries with the most satisfied residents for years. One of the reasons for the happiness of the Swedes is the almost unlimited and easy access to unspoiled nature. Researchers decided to investigate its impact on human well-being in a case study they called the 72 Hour Cabin.


Be like a Swede

The project initiated by the official Swedish website for tourism and travel information, Visit Sweden with the help from the West Sweden Tourist Board (Turistrådet Västsverige) and researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm was designed to determine the effects of 72 hours spent with Swedish nature. The invited participants were representatives of the most stressful jobs in the world. Some of them were a police officer from Munich, a journalist from London, and a taxi driver from Paris. They spent three days in glass cabins on the Henriksholm island, two hours from Gothenburg.

It was far from a regular vacation. The participants were intended not only to enjoy the fresh air and breath-taking scenery visible through the transparent walls of their microscopic homes designed by an architecture student, Jeanna Berger, but first and foremost, to adopt the Swedish lifestyle. They spent the time fishing, bathing in the lake, picking mushrooms, and bonfire talking. The researchers thoroughly tested their well-being levels. ‘I thought it would be just another vacation. It turned out to be a life-changing experience,’ admitted Baqer Keshwani, an event coordinator from New York.

No chance for stress

The experiment took place in September 2017. It confirmed the beneficial effects of outdoor activities in Swedish natural environment on the happiness of the participants. After 72 hours, their physical and mental state improved significantly and stress levels decreased up to 70 percent. It's not all; their blood pressure dropped by 9 percent compared to the initial values. Karolinska Institute's Walter Osika and Cecilia Stenfors who supervised the experiment noted reduced heart rate, a significant decrease in anxiety levels and improved creativity in the participants. One of them, Ben Fogle, a broadcaster from London admitted during the experiment: ‘It feels like the world has slowed down.’ Juxtaposed with the fast-paced and stressful reality we live in, it sounds like a promise of true relaxation. All the more so because the glass cabins and unbelievably beautiful wild nature of West Sweden are at your fingertips. You can book one at www.vastsverige.com.

You don't have to go to the far island of Henriksholm to experience a true Swedish-style relax. You should spend at least 72 hours in Scania, a region of Sweden that is the closest to Poland. It offers 200 kilometres of beaches, 1180 kilometres of hiking trails and several hundred kilometres of bike trails. You can try canoeing in the Immeln lake famous for its crystal clear water or stay in the very heart of the beech forest in the STF Nyrup Naturhotell, a hotel with yurt-like tents. There are many opportunities but remember that the true relax comes to those who stay outside and assume the active, Swedish lifestyle for at least 72 hours.


The nature of the man

The need for being close to nature is inscribed in our DNA. The beneficial effects of open space on the human condition and well-being results from our primal, inherent connection to nature. Urban populations all over the world strive for contact with nature. According to data from the Polish Central Statistical Office, the Poles most often choose to spend their free time walking or relaxing outside. It may be a sign of the instinct of self-preservation because all day inside and urban life are not good for anyone. Regular forest or lake trips, on the other hand, are very beneficial: from better rest and stress reduction to improved short-term memory and reduced signs of depression, to… protected eyesight and reduced inflammation.

The Swedes are well aware of this. For them, the right to unrestricted contact with nature is sanctity. ‘Allemansrätten’, or the ‘everyman's right’ guaranteed by the Swedish constitution was adopted in 1974 and stems from the belief that the humanity is an integral part of the natural environment. This law gives everyone the right to access natural environment, make use of forests and lakes, hike in the mountains and bathe in rivers. You can put up a tent everywhere, even on private land, but if you plan to stay more than one night, it is a good idea to ask the owner first. The utmost principle when exercising this right is to respect nature and others. Still, this is the principle for every day and everywhere. This would be a really Swedish lifestyle.