Author spotlight: Bringing hygge into the early years

Friday, June 10, 2022

Kimberly Smith (@hyggeintheearlyyears on Instagram) from KSEY Consultancy and author of ‘Bringing Hygge into the Early Years’ discusses a Norwegian concept called ‘Friluftsliv.’

We often look to Scandinavia, and it can seem as though they have all the answers when it comes to having a good quality of life. Not only is Denmark often ranked as the happiest country in the world, according to United Nations rankings, but Norway is often ranked second.

The Danish approach to life, known as Hygge, is often described as being one of the main contributors to this. Whereby the simple and cosy moments in life, often with others, are appreciated. For instance, enjoying a warm cup of hot chocolate by the fire after a walk with family in the snow.

Just as the Danes build Hygge into their culture, Norwegians have a very special way of improving their wellbeing through the concept of ‘Friluftsliv’ (Pronounced free-loofts-liv). This literally means ‘free-air-life’ and is focussed on having a simple life that has a strong appreciation for nature.

I think it's really important to remind ourselves of this and even take inspiration of the way nature can impact the whole self. Consider how many times we over complicate nature or put up barriers to stop us accessing it, perhaps with the need of expensive equipment or reluctance to be outside due to weather conditions. We can even be guilty of going into nature for the desire to get that ‘perfect’ Instagram shot. Yet when we look at Friluftsliv we can see there is a shift in thinking to it being about getting outdoors in a simple way and just feeling present in the nature around you.

With the harsh weather conditions, especially in northern Scandinavia, the weather cannot dictate the decision to enter outside or not. Instead, we can be reminded here of a quote by Alfred Wainwright, ‘there's no such thing as bad weather only unsuitable clothing.’ Young children are also brought up with this way of thinking from a very young age in Scandinavia, and parents can often be seen walking in the fresh air wearing their young babies in slings all year round. Three-year olds are taken on daily hikes in the ice and show no fear when it comes to skiing, while older children can be seen climbing mountains with their parents, with family holidays often experienced in the wilderness. The Scandinavian approach to education also supports Friluftsliv with a strong outdoor focus, with many children attending outdoor based schools, working on a curriculum that has a focus on key life skills and understanding the elements of the seasons and natural phenomena.

During my time in Norway there were many days when we would set off for a hike from the house with no particular focus or end goal. My Norwegian friends would remind us just to be present without the need for any competitiveness; to have a desire to conquer a mountain or battle raging river rapids in a kayak. Just being was enough, like sitting at the side of a lake and watching out for a moose swimming across or taking a cup of tea on the doorstep and listening to the birds.

We are often reminded of how young children are very good at stopping, looking and being curious as they walk along. Perhaps we can turn to our children to learn this again from them. The importance of slowness and looking at the world through a fresh pair of eyes. Leaving our agenda for play at the door to the outside and learning to just go and truly be in that moment.

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