“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.
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.
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Featured photo by VisitLakeland