What the Heck is the 72-Hour Swedish Cabin Experience?

A recent study reveals the benefits of spending several days in Swedish nature.

Photo by: Magnus Klang

Magnus Klang

There are close-ups of vividly green trees, a still blue-gray lake and a meal around a robust campfire.

"Is it possible to reduce stress during 72 hours in Swedish nature?" asks Cecilia Stenfors, a postdoctoral researcher at the Karolinksa Institute, while narrating a promo for the 72-Hour Cabin project. Five test subjects were chosen to answer that question.

Photo by: Magnus Klang

Magnus Klang

In 2017, as part of a tourism initiative to promote wellness in nature, Visit Sweden and the West Sweden Tourist Board launched the 72-Hour Cabin project on a remote Swedish island, where they performed a case study to demonstrate the health benefits of spending just 72 hours in nature.

Wellness is an integral part of Scandinavian society, and many of its practices have been adopted by wellness-hungry cultures around the world. There’s hygge, pronounced hoo-guh, the Danish concept of creating a cozy environment, particularly in winter. Last year, trend arbiters declared the Swedish idea of lagom, pronounced la-gum, the new hygge, a way of thinking that can generally mean a balanced life, or everything in moderation, or a "just right" approach. Fika, pronounced fee-ka, is another key element of Swedish well-being. While some may be familiar with the eponymous Manhattan-based coffee chain, Fika is actually a way of life that calls for taking a break, or breaks, throughout the day, usually with coffee and a baked good.

But we’d be remiss to overlook nature while covering Scandinavian wellness approaches.

Dalsland in West Sweden is a sleepy place, a small province blanketed with unspoiled forests and ancient lakes — the perfect setting for communing with nature. To really escape, Henriksholm Island is a private retreat accessible only by boat, and populated by an 18-bedroom home for rent, along with five recently added glass cabins.

Photo by: Maja Flink

Maja Flink

For the 72-Hour Cabin project, Visit Sweden and the West Sweden Tourist Board chose five people from abroad with stressful jobs, including a taxi driver from Paris, a police officer from Germany and a journalist from London.

For three days participants were left to their own devices, choosing to kayak, swim, fish, or simply read in their individual cabins along the lake. Jeanna Berger, whose parents own the island, designed the glass-enclosed cabins. True to Scandinavian minimalism, the five cabins were outfitted with a wooden platform bed and neutral bedding (participants were able to access a separate bathhouse facility). And lest anyone felt too enclosed, each cabin also featured doors that swung open.

Ben Fogle, a broadcaster from London, was one of the participants. "For lots of people, the wilderness can be a very scary place: the forest, the open ocean and open lake," he noted in the video. "But what I think what you have here in Sweden is a way of having comfortable wilderness."

Photo by: Magnus Klang

Magnus Klang

Being a case study, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm monitored vitals regarding stress, and also measured creativity and problem-solving abilities. In general, the results showed stress levels declined by 70 percent; it also found blood pressure and heart rate had also decreased after three days. Unsurprisingly, creativity and problem solving increased, along with participants saying they felt more at one with nature.

But don’t worry about missing out on this experience. Visitors can book the same glass cabins through September 2018, although availability beyond that is uncertain at this point. Each cabin sleeps two, and the stay includes a welcome fika and all meals, whether in a separate building or al fresco. While the overall experience is glamping light, guests do have access to a sauna and the aforementioned bathroom facilities. A flashlight, eye mask and water bottle are also provided.

In addition to Henriksholm Island, similar experiences can be enjoyed at Dalslands Aktiviteter and Baldersnas Herrgard. The former can also arrange activities such as trail riding and gold panning, while the latter offers multi-course meals at its posh manor house.

Can’t travel to Sweden anytime soon? Then read about where you can approximate the 72-Hour Cabin experience in the U.S.

Swedish Wellness In the U.S.

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