For many of us, the long, dark winter months are anticipated with a sense of dread. Short days and frigid temperatures can lead to a sense of cabin fever, and sometimes even seasonal depression. The evenings go by in an unsatisfying blur of Netflix binges and over-indulgence of all those treats left over from the holiday season as we count down the days until spring.
But the Danish, who are experts at thriving in bleak winters, have mastered a way to create little flashes of delight in the midst of the most mundane season. Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is the practice of turning common tasks and ordinary moments into joyful rituals and shared experiences.
It’s a subtle art that doesn’t come with a handbook of specific rules. On the contrary, how hygge is practiced can depend on the person, the time of day, or even the season.
Hygge, a word with no direct English translation, is most often described as a feeling of coziness and contentment. In a world that is as fast-paced and competitive as ours, the practice of making a conscious choice to slow down seems positively revolutionary. With reports of stress levels rising across the globe, how do the Danish manage to stay near the top the World Happiness Report year after year? One theory is their commitment to hygge, and the calming effects it has on those who actively pursue happiness in their day-to-day lives.
But how can you, with a demanding job, endless to-do lists, errands to run, and societal pressures create space in your schedule for subtle feelings of contentment? Actually, you might be surprised how simple it is to introduce hygge into your life! You don’t need fancy Scandinavian furniture. You don’t need cashmere socks. You don’t even need to save your pennies for an out-of-state yoga retreat. To practice hygge all you need is comfort, connection, and companionship.
Whether it’s putting on your favorite decade-old sweatpants you’d never be caught wearing outside the house or fluffing up some pillows and crawling under a cozy blanket, hygge is all about comfort. In the harsh winter months, there are few things that bring as much joy as feeling warm and cozy. Stop for a few moments each day and enjoy it! Light some candles, pour some hot tea, and crack open that book that’s been abandoned on your coffee table for weeks. Don’t have much space in your day for quiet reflection? Never fear. You can create comfort at any time. Even taking tiny breaks to find joy in the most common tasks is a step in the right direction. Hold that warm to-go coffee cup in your hands for a few extra seconds and savor one of the best scents in the world.
Make it a goal to step away from the screen and connect with the world around you. One of the ways the Danish thrive in the darkest months is by regularly spending time in nature and turning everyday tasks into enjoyable rituals. Consider connecting with your food by transforming your morning cup of coffee into a ceremony with a pour-over. Or, bundle up for a walk in the woods and take the time to listen to bare tree limbs sway back and forth in the wind. If you don’t happen to live in a place where you can easily access nature, you can still practice hygge. Take the scenic route to wherever you’re going and really notice what’s out your window or choose to enjoy your tea at the café instead of on the go.
Practicing hygge doesn’t always have to be something you do on your own. In fact, one of the most joyful ways to survive the winter months is to share them with friends! This doesn’t mean fancy dinner parties or expensive nights out on the town. On the contrary. Time spent cooking and eating a simple meal at home is a treasure. Inviting friends over to laugh, play games, or even share a hot beverage and a favorite movie is one of the best ways to while away those long, dark evenings.
Take a tip from our Danish neighbors this season and give hygge a try. Embrace the joy that simply slowing down and savoring the smallest moments can bring.