Alaskan winters are long, cold and dark. Too many years of that pattern, for many people, is a deal-breaker.
They say farewell to the forty-ninth state and pack up for warmer, sunnier climes. Other people just take a break from the incessant beating by routinely hopping on a jet to Hawaii for a week. Or two. Or a few months.
These approaches suggest that the only way to survive the winter is to escape it. There are people around the world, however, who have been not only surviving but thriving through the winter in northern latitudes. Their method is quite different than escaping. Instead, they embrace winter and all it brings.
The people of Scandinavia craft lifestyles around the special feeling of coziness that winter brings, and use the Danish word hygge (hue-guh) to describe it. Hygge means shifting your winter mindset from one of chilliness and despair to one of warmth and comfort. If you struggle with keeping your spirits up until spring, introducing some elements of hygge may be just what you need.
The great news is, you probably already have pieces of hygge in your life.
Adding coziness doesn’t need to be an entirely new endeavor to stack upon all of the other things – it is just a matter of connecting those fractured pieces into a cohesive mood that follows through the entire day and season.
If you look forward to the quiet and warmth of your first cup of coffee or tea in the morning, enjoy the gathering of friends with laughter and soft lighting or revel in a hot drink after a day of skiing, then you already know hygge.
Making your life more hygge is about creating places, meals, times, rituals and traditions that you truly look forward to, and that allow you to care for yourself and your loved ones.
Here are some ideas from the lovely book The Hygge Life by Gunnar Gíslason:
Food is central to building a hygge lifestyle. Reflect on foods and meals that you remember as being warm and comforting from childhood. There is a good chance that these are worth bringing back on the menu to make wintertime a joy.
Hygge foods should be simple, delicious and nutritious. Hygge foods do not come from bags or fast food restaurants, but also should not be complicated and stressful to make. Soups and stews, simple baked goods and cleanly prepared main dishes are good building blocks.
Atmosphere is another essential element to hygge.
Reduce clutter and artificial lighting and increase relaxing colors and soft, comfy accessories like pillows and blankets. Bringing in natural elements such as paper, cotton, wool, stone, and wood can smooth hard edges in a home. Lighting with candles or strings of twinkle lights – creates a relaxed mood, compared to harsh overhead lighting.
Bringing more hygge into your home does not require an entire home remodel. A few small changes can make a big difference. A special table setting, a cozy chair with a warm blanket or a new soft throw for the bed can go far. Pinterest is a rich source of hygge decorating ideas.
Natural scents are heavy hitters when it comes to creating a mood. Avoid artificially scented candles and room fresheners entirely – these can irritate respiratory and nervous systems. Experiment with essential oil diffusers. Also try setting out items that carry their own scents such as coffee, vanilla, cinnamon or pine boughs.
The comfort of rituals and traditions is undeniable.
By mentally framing regular tasks as rituals rather than chores, joy can be derived from the process. Routine jobs such as making coffee or feeding the dog can be made pleasurable with a few simple tweaks.
Instead of hurriedly dumping some preground joe in the plastic coffee maker, take a few extra minutes to experiment with grinding whole beans and brewing in a french press or with a pour-over method. Instead of allowing your dog to self-feed in the mudroom, give him a good scratch and a freshly fixed up bowl near the main activity space in the house.
One of the most potent ways to get through a difficult time is through the power of connection to others.
While nearly everyone enjoys some quality alone time, gathering together is a basic human need. Lunch with a friend, a walk with a group, or a dinner party give you the opportunity to slow down and reconnect with others. Even a simple but intentional family dinner at the table can go far with creating community within the home, rather than several frantic, disjointed lives whirling in close proximity to one another.
In the words of Gíslason, “Hygge is meant to be felt.” Common threads will run through all visits to hygge, but success will be different for everyone. When you feel hygge, you know it. What does hygge look like for you?
Gíslason, G. (2017.) The Hygge Life: Embracing the Nordic art of coziness through recipes, entertaining, decorating, simple rituals, and family traditions. Ten Speed Press, New York.
Sara Kennedy is a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. She lives fitness, nutrition and wellness – and wants to help save lives and change the world’s view on health and nutrition. Learn more about Sara and her plans at thriveak.com To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org