By now, many of us are familiar with the Danish term “hygge,” which is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” In fact, “hygge” was in the running for the 2016 Oxford Dictionary word of the year award. Hygge is considered to be a part of the Danish national character. With every smile and tip of the hat, hygge is spread and coziness is shared from one to another. You can look at it similarly to the southern identity of hospitality. We smile and say hi to strangers when we walk by. We wave as we drive past our neighbors, familiar or not. This little bit of southern hospitality can be seen as our own homegrown version of hygge, spreading cheer and comfort. While this kindness is important year-round, it’s especially beneficial during the cold, dark days of winter. And while we can’t be with each other physically or wrap our loved ones in real hugs during this Covid winter, it’s even more important to our emotional wellbeing to make our surroundings as cozy as possible.
The best part of hygge is that it can encompass just about everything that is seen as cozy to you. It’s about “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things,” according to Helen Russell who wrote The Year of Living Danishly. These gentle moments could be as small and sweet as enjoying a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning or slipping into your robe in order to coax yourself out of bed, or as wonderful and grand as taking a snow day nap by the warm fireplace (the dream!). Hygge and the comfort that it brings to days is a very real way to carve away a place of sanctuary in your everyday life. What a great way to get through the coldest, darkest days of the year.
So how can we spread a little hygge to this corner of Virginia this winter? Here are just a few tips:
● Establish a ritual: When I think about it, my morning coffee isn’t my favorite part of my morning just because I physically can’t move until I have it, but because it’s a moment to myself. It’s my morning ritual that helps me get my mind right and think about my day. When I don’t get to have this ritual, I feel a little off kilter and disoriented. So even on my earliest of days, I’ll wake up a little earlier in order to have my morning coffee and enjoy that simple form of refuge from the rest of my day.
● Candles: candles are very hygge! In fact, Danes burn roughly 13 pounds of candles per person a year! Candles are considered hygge for the soft light they emit during the darkest days and it’s actually recommended that these candles be unscented, as scented candles can release carcinogenic compounds into the air (which is very un-hygge).
● Be present and contemplate gratitude: Take time out of your day to spend away from your phone and other distractions and just enjoy the small moment you are currently in. Think about all the wonderful things this year brought you. Despite having to do things a little differently this year, silver linings abound if we know where to look for them! It’s important to keep in mind that these silver linings don’t have to be tangible things, and it’s probable that they aren’t. Looking for silver linings of resilience (you made it through a crap year and did so while picking up a new baking hobby!) are key in an odd year such as 2020.
● Enjoy doing nothing at all: Our brains need a time out too! It’s hard to do nothing, especially when there’s so much to do! But consider it an investment in your mental health and overall productivity later on down the road if that helps. Be okay with doing nothing for the moment - multi-tasking is the enemy of hygge here.
Hopefully this little introduction into the world of hygge helps motivate you to bring the holly and the jolly to your everyday activities and spread cheer to all your neighbors, familiar and not!