This week I’m discussing ‘hygge’, which can be best described as a Danish attitude and approach to life.
Hygge, pronounced ‘hoo-ga’, originates from an Old Norse word, “hugga,” which means to comfort or console. It is also where the English word “hug” comes from, which is a good translation for the word hygge … being all about warmth, comfort and closeness!
I’m talking about hygge as I hear a lot of people complain or talk unenthusiastically about “getting through” the Winter. Mainly due to the negative connotations around the darker, shorter days and the colder, wetter weather.
Now, that’s not to say that the Winter doesn’t have the potential to impact our wellbeing in a more negative way; on a previous blog in this series, I highlighted how it’s common to get rundown and also many people suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to lack of daylight and vitamin D deficiency because of the colder, shorter, darker days.
But I’m also a big believer in cultivating a positive mindset and that our thoughts quite literally create our reality.
So, if you say something is going to be hard or depressing, it’s more likely it will be because that’s what you’re focussing on.
Whereas, if we approach the Winter with a more optimistic, glass-half-full perspective, we see all the plus points and all of the ways we can benefit from everything that the Winter brings.
This Winter it’s also highly likely we will be further limited in what we can do socially … as we are here in the UK right now with a second lockdown underway!
And this is where the hygge approach to life comes in.
Although hygge isn’t only applicable to Wintertime, it was born out of the long, cold winters in Denmark. With up to 17 hours in darkness per day, Danish people spend more time indoors and have therefore become experts at making the most of it!
So, how can you embrace the hygge approach to life this Winter? Here are some typical hygge things to do:
- Cosy nights in
- Warm, dimmed lighting
- Sitting by the fireside
- Snuggling up on the sofa with a blanket
- Indulging rather than restriction
- Being kind to yourself
- Hot chocolate and mulled wine
- Fireside chats
- Reading a book in peace
- Enjoying yourself in a calm way
- Letting go of the need to be busy
- Lighting candles
- Eating comforting food
- Early nights in bed
- Getting up with the sunrise
- Leisurely walks in nature
- Listening to birdsong
- Home cooking and baking
- Forgetting life’s worries
- Playing board games
- Watching good films
- Watching the Winter sunsets
- Taking a long, relaxing bath
- Having friends over for dinner in a cosy, warm setting
- Not chasing after thrills
- Enjoying the simple things in life
In an ideal world you’d be living the hygge way of life in a wooden chalet, relaxing by the warmth of a roaring fire, wearing brushed cotton PJ’s and snuggled up under blanket with the snow falling outside!
I appreciate that most people probably don’t live in a home quite like that and here in the UK it’s not even a given that we’ll get any snow at all!
But I do believe that we can take inspiration from the hygge way of life and use it consciously to make the best of this Winter.
A couple of simple tips that I recommend would be to use lamps as opposed to a main ceiling light and be sure to use low level, warm toned bulbs. Light candles and have some cosy blankets on the sofa to snuggle up in whilst wearing some kind of soft warm slippers or house socks!
But mostly, it’s about your approach towards turning inwards, slowing down, enjoying the stillness, downtime and simple things in life … And in many ways’ lockdown makes this even easier to do!
If we look to nature: trees lay dormant over the winter period and many animals hibernate. And in reference to one of the points made in last week’s blog on seasonal food, we could actually look at hygge as a natural and seasonal ‘way of being’ in the Winter.
Next week will be the last in this series of blogs on ‘preparing for Winter’, and I’ll be looking more closely at some new and interesting science behind blue light and light exposure in direct relation to your stress levels and overall wellbeing. This is something that is particularly important to bear in mind during the Winter because of the darker days and therefore a greater reliance on artificial light.