Ice swimming embraced by people of happiest country in the world

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“It’s going to make you feel so good!”

Katja Pantzar hears her friend call out encouragingly as she stands on a wooden dock in central Helsinki on a cold, dark and snowy winter evening. It’s 14 F (-10 C), but all Pantzar is wearing is a swimsuit, a wool hat and borrowed neoprene gloves and booties. She’s been told she’s about to take a step toward curing all her problems, from aches and pains to feeling down.

Pantzar is about to take the plunge — a dip into water that is warmer than the air but still just 38 F (about 3 C) and ice-covered. While this might seem like a daredevil stunt or a crazy bet to North Americans and many others around the world, ice swimming, or winter swimming, is not an out-of-the-ordinary sight even here in the capital city’s center.

Instead, jumping into a hole cut in the ice of the sea or a lake during winter is an everyday activity in Finland — one that’s performed with gusto.

A Helsinki-based author and journalist, Pantzer believes this unlikely national pastime is one of the reasons why Finland ranks as the happiest country in the world.

In her book “The Finnish Way: Finding Courage, Wellness, and Happiness through the Power of Sisu,” Pantzar credits swimming in the sea almost every day in Finland, all year round, to her overall happiness and well-being.

Read CNN Travel

finland ice swimming photo

Photo by VisitLakeland

Featured photo by VisitLakeland

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About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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