Written by Jenna Schotter, Aeura Contributor
Winter can be brutal. It’s hard to keep your spirits up when battling daily pains like icy roads, frozen windshields, chapped skin and what sometimes feels like an eternal lack of sunlight. Tis the season to get so affected by its downsides that we usually end up sad and depressed— and probably with the flu on top of it.
Though to play devil’s advocate, there are certain elements to this time of year that are uniquely wonderful. Freshly fallen snow, curling up by a fire, the dry heat of a sauna, the healing powers of a hot cup of soup. It kind of becomes our job then, in an effort to maintain sanity, to find little ways of celebrating the season while we’re in it. This is loosely the idea of hygge (HOO-gah), the Danish philosophy centered around embracing the qualities of winter (or any other season) that make it special.
Hygge roughly translates to “cozy” or “coziness,” it derives from a sixteenth-century Norwegian word meaning “to comfort.” Though hygge is more involved than wrapping up in a blanket and calling it a day. The concept leans further towards adopting an attitude of coziness rather than simply emphasizing the literal kind.
There must be something to it, as the Danes have some of the longest and fiercest winters and yet are still recognized as one of the happiest countries in the world. Perhaps this is because of how view and value happiness in general. Meik Wiking, the author of “The Little Book of Hygge,” one of the most popular offerings on the topic, told Elle UK, “after our basic needs are met, more money doesn’t lead to more happiness. Instead, Danes are good at focusing on what brings them a better quality of life.”
So what are these life boosters of which he speaks? The basic themes of hygge seem to be focused around relaxing, practicing gratitude, indulging and promoting community. Let’s break some of these down and explore how to best hygge in these colder months.
Center & Take it Easy
With the work hard, play hard mentality that seems to sweep our nation, mindful relaxation for some can be elusive. Building a pillow fort and lighting a bunch of amber and moss candles, though very hygge, might not do you much good if you don’t have a means of tempering your stress. Looking into anxiety relievers like meditation, stream of consciousness journaling or yoga could be helpful solutions to getting into the right headspace to hygge.
Once you’re there, the world is your oyster. Throw on some cashmere socks, have a glass of wine and cozy up to a book. Make a point of it to create a soothing atmosphere. Ditch fluorescent overheads and go for lamps with soft lighting. Get your fireplace crackling. If you don’t have one, grab your laptop and pull up a video of one to set the tone. I even did the work for you - Click Here. Hygge shouldn’t translate into breaking your bank.
Do What You’ve Been Putting Off
Winter is an opportunity to get to the things you haven’t had the time for. Use up those fancy bath salts you bought six months ago and go through that list of classic movies you’ve been meaning to see. Put simply, when spending a lot of time inside, make sure your home makes you feel good, and what you’re doing in it brings you joy.
Bring the Party Inside
Cold weather can also be a death sentence for your social life. With less sun, you wind up with less energy and less motivation to call up the friend you’ve been playing phone tag with or to throw on four layers of clothing to catch that new band you like passing through. Though friendship and companionship are essential to hygge; the Danish are firm believers in the importance of strong social bonds. Instead of going out, bring your gatherings in. Invite a handful of friends over, stock your liquor cabinet, cook up a meal or have everyone bring things to snack on. Extra points for going with the season, make it easy by throwing your kettle on for some hot tea or get creative and whip up a cocktail featuring pine, peppermint or cider. Pull out the board games dusting on the shelf. Prioritize having a nice time with the people you care about. If you don’t have an urge to host, swap the location to an intimate coffee shop, bar or restaurant for a similar effect.
Explore the Great Outdoors
Though counterintuitive and this suggestion might fill you with dread, get outside! There’s an old saying that goes there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes. Make sure you’ve got the right gear to stay warm out there and do something simple like take a walk. Appreciate the sights. Take in the smells. Listen for the sounds exclusive to this time of year. Too much idle time can leave you sick of it and feeling off. So grab a sled, throw on some ice skates, or whip up some snowballs.
Spice Up the Dull Stuff
Another imperative part of hygge is sprucing up the mundane. Turn on the tunes while you do the dishes. Make cleaning a group effort, add a game-like element to it. Create some incentive for getting it done.
Boost Your Mood with Gratitude
More than anything, build an effort to recognize and show gratitude for what you have as much as possible. Keeping a list of what you’re grateful for is something worth trying. Giving back in a greater sense is also never a bad thought. With these harsh weather conditions, there is a sincere need for food and warm clothing in homeless populations. Clean out your closet and pantry, get your friends and family to do it with you. Gestures big and small towards gratitude can lead to a huge shift in your perspective and overall attitude.
In the end, hygge isn’t all that complicated. Surround yourself with people you care about, be thankful for what you have, find time to take care of yourself and indulge a little bit. Though it’s not just about blankets and candles, keep them lit and throw a bunch around the house. Winter is harsh and staying happy can be hard. Make some space for coziness mentally. Maybe a little hygge is all you need to warm up.