Originally published Feb. 26, 2018 for the Alberta Motor Association Employee Wellness Program
This time of year is tough. On especially frigid, snowy days, it feels like winter is here to stay forever. I start asking myself delusional questions like, "will there still be snow on the ground in June?" because I genuinely can't remember. As winter progresses, I get bored, become irritable, and feel like all I'm doing is killing time until spring. So, when a co-worker mentioned that I needed more hygge (pronounced hue-guh) in my life to get through the rest of winter, I was curious.
Hygge is a Danish word used to describe feelings of coziness, comfort, wellness and contentment. Like us, Scandinavians have harsh and bracing cold winters. Hygge was a way for Danes to survive boredom, the cold, darkness and sameness. It's evolved into a regular concept in their day-to-day lives and is all about enjoying the pleasures of the present moment and the simple things in life, making essential and mundane tasks dignified, joyful and beautiful.
Because hygge is a frame of mind rather than something tangible, it's hard to snap your fingers and make a whole mental shift overnight. Here are some easy changes that have set the foundation for me while I embark on the hygge journey. The tips are simple, yet I can see how powerful hygge can be.
The first thing has nothing to do with hygge, but everything to do with that I've realized as I read about it: it's okay not to like winter. Living in Alberta, I've always felt the pressures of needing to like the season. It seems like everyone gets excited when it snows, or is a winter sport junkie and I've always been ashamed of not sharing the same passions. It seems so simple, but accepting my truth has been a revelation for me.
Building small, comfortable moments into each day and appreciating them is key. Having a quiet bath mid-week, spending weekend mornings in bed with a full pot of coffee and a good book, drinking tea from my favourite mug and wearing my favourite sweater more often are all things I've done before, but appreciating the moments has made a significant difference.
Lighting is important. Dim lighting, candles and a lit fireplace go a long way when it comes to creating a cozy environment. I've kept my Christmas lights hung on my patio and turn them on in the evening. It gives me a little boost when I look outside as it gets dark each night.
Figure out what brings you contentment and do those things more often. I buy fresh market flowers every week in the summer but stop when it gets cold. Recently, I've started picking up flowers while I'm at the grocery store and keep them on my coffee table. I've noticed that having the flowers there has changed how I feel when I'm in my living room. I also love the feeling of clean, fresh sheets, so I've started washing my bedding more often than I normally would.
Enjoying the company and conversation with a more intimate group of people more often helps reinforce comfort. Being about big groups of people can get busy and overwhelming and the intimacy is just not there. For the rest of the winter, I'm making an effort to be around a smaller group of people because I find it more relaxing.
Hygge is a relatively new concept to me and I still feel like I'm in the exploring stages. If you have any tips (or other tips for how you survive winter), reach out! I'm always open to new suggestions. In the meantime, I'm going to leave a few books I've skimmed through in case you're curious:
Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness, Marie Tourell Soderberg
The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort and Connection, Louisa Thomsen Brits