How to Boost Your Energy with the Comfort of Hygge
As days get shorter, wetter, and colder this season, you might wish you could snuggle down and hibernate until March. But with so much to do to get ready for the holidays, you need energy more than you need to take cover.
Enter hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah"), the Danish concept of positive self-care, perfect for rest and rejuvenation.
The Danes know a thing or two about coziness. During long northern winters when it can be dark for up to 17 hours a day, Danes lift their spirits with the comforts of hygge. But while hygge has been aggressively marketed of late, it is definitely not about buying something to improve your mood.
Hygge: Not for sale in stores.
Meik Wiking, Danish author of The Little Book of Hygge, says that hygge has been corrupted by marketers who have turned something that has always been free into something they can sell. $100 "hygge blankets" and $40 "hygge-scented" candles are commercial hype. Hygge, Wiking explains, is not about things. It's a feeling of contentment that exists "only in the absence of stress and nuisance," when you experience a sense of relaxation and belonging.
It's not surprising that Brits and Americans have jumped on the hygge bandwagon. Ours is the culture that invented the 24-hour market and next-day delivery. We're famous for constant multi-tasking and voracious ambition.
But many of us also long for a slower pace, quality time with loved ones, a deeper connection to nature, and feelings of peace and tranquility.
Norwegian anthropologist Signe Johanson, who wrote How to Hygge, says that the interest in hygge "isn't just because people are being duped by clever marketers." She receives a lot of emails from readers in the UK and North America who "find the idea of hygge to be a soothing element in times of upheaval, and who are genuinely interested in why and how Scandinavia has achieved such a high quality of life."
Trend, aesthetic, or something more?
Hygge is something we already know how to do. You've probably experienced hygge without even knowing it – the last time there was a snow day, for example, or when your power went out for the evening.
Hygge is a feeling. It costs nothing. In fact, explains Johanson, if you're even thinking too much about it you're kind of missing the point. "Hygge is effortless comfort. It has no element of performance. It is the absence of all pretense and worry."
It's about finding joy in the moment.
14 ways to experience hygge today
1. Make time for a relaxed dinner with loved ones.
Ditch your phone and enjoy laughter and conversation (and light a few candles if you feel like it).
Add some fluffy socks and a warm blanket, if you like. Let your pet curl up near you. Great novels to read in the winter include The Snow Child, Peace Like a River, and Murder on the Orient Express.*
* This blog is reader-supported. When you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.
3. Visit a cozy pub with friends.
This isn't really about going for a drink. It's about relaxing and being together. So a glass of wine, a cold beer, a mug of hot apple cider, or a foamy latte work equally well. Share your day, share your ideas, avoid political debates and celebrity gossip. Just be with your people!
4. Bundle up and go for a long walk.
Breathe deeply. Observe the sky, the trees, the birds. Notice how colors appear brighter against the monochromes of winter. Be refreshed!
5. Make time to savor breakfast.
Most of us are rushing around in the morning, and not only skip breakfast, but lose the chance to connect with our families.
With just 20 extra minutes you can make and eat whole grain toast topped with:
- a fried egg and freshly ground pepper
- some nut butter and sliced banana
- ricotta cheese with sliced apple and a drizzle of honey
Have everyone pitch in so you can work and eat together. It's a great start to your day.
6. Bring out old photos.
Remember friends and family, special celebrations and wonderful trips. Reminisce with your partner, or share stories with your kids or grandkids.
Sing along with the tunes you loved in high school, play some of your holiday favorites, or meditate on something deep and emotional such as Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata or violinist Angèle Dubeau playing the music of Ludovico Einaudi.
Bring out your knitting needles or crochet hook and a skein of soft, beautiful yarn. Draw, color, or paint. Build Lego or do a jigsaw puzzle with your child.
This isn't the time for something fussy. Make your favorite banana bread, or some oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies. Enjoy a portion warm from the oven, then wrap up the rest for lunch treats later in the week. Savor the delicious, lingering aroma.
10. Watch a favorite movie.
Choose your favorite comedy or romance, or a beloved holiday film, and watch it alone or with someone else. Put your phone away and get comfortable.
11. Play cards.
Cards are so versatile -- games can be simple or competitive. A regular deck of cards can provide a fun and relaxing evening with friends or family. Enjoy Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Knock Rummy, or Estimation (a favorite of my husband's family).
This is all about the warmth, the aroma, and the resulting easy, tasty meal. Just add some crusty bread and butter and you're set.
13. Pretend the power is out.
Turn off lamps, computers, and appliances (except the fridge). Gather in one room or around the table. Light a fire or some candles and enjoy the festive togetherness.
14. Read aloud.
Get everyone nestled together while you read a stack of picture books, or start a longer book to be read over several nights. Wonderful winter chapter books include Moominland Midwinter (a Scandinavian fantasy adventure), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, Odd and the Frost Giants (inspired by Norse mythology), and the Edgar-winning children's mystery, Greenglass House.
To get the most from hygge, slow down and make time for the people and activities that soothe and rejuvenate you. Pay attention and appreciate the good things in your life.
You'll love the feeling so much you'll want winter to last longer!
Related post: Summertime Hygge: How to Increase Happiness During the Dog Days
A Minimalist Holiday, available now as a Kindle eBook and in paperback.
Love the above, wish every day could be like that!ReplyDelete
What a different world we would live in.
I want to do one or more of these things every day at least until the end of the year! You are so right, Georgi!Delete
I love cuddling up with a good book with pillows and a lap rug and a favorite beverage at hand. I think I'm pretty good at this hygge thing. Plus my husband and I have started doing jigsaw puzzles together during winter in Minnesota this year so we're getting even better at it. Although that word for it is fairly new to us.ReplyDelete
That sounds cozy, Linda!Delete
Hi Karen, I live in Ballarat Australia which is very cold most of the year round. Its summertime here now and I still have our gas log heater running, although next week we are about to have a week long heat wave and we will be on bush fire alert. I love to snuggle up in bed with a good book. Our two little dogs, my two daughters and husband all like to get in the big bed with me to keep warm in the mornings and I think this is a picture of perfect happiness. Loving your posts CrystalReplyDelete
Hello, Crystal! I Googled your town to see where it is and why it might be so cold most of the time. I see that it's at over 1400 ft. elevation, which might explain it. It looks like a beautiful town and an interesting place to visit.Delete
Snuggling with family all together IS so happy and cozy, I agree.
Thanks for reading!
Hi I love reading your posts and your style of writing. I live in Brisbane Australia and we have a very short and mild winter but hygge sounds like a wonderful thing to do all year round. Thanks Penny email@example.comReplyDelete
Hi Penny, and thank you for commenting. Where I live in the Sacramento Valley of northern California we have short and mild winters too. The final leaves are just now falling from the trees, and almond orchards will be blooming by the end of February. We can expect a few nights that get down into the 20sF, but that's usually as cold as it gets. My husband took a job in Denver, Colorado soon after we married, and when we lived there we got a taste of real winter! I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas in Brisbane.Delete
We moved to New Mexico from Colorado a few months ago. To our surprise and delight, our lifestyle has changed dramatically. Most notably, I've watched only 3 hours of PBS since October (my husband about the same). Last night, we decided to cancel our TV cable service (unheard of for us - we're major sports fans). Our house is open and light-filled - I think the natural light encourages me to live and do, not sit and watch TV! Thank you for your blog. I found you via No Sidebar.ReplyDelete
Hi goseigirl, and thanks for sharing! I think it's true that natural light encourages us to live and do, rather than sit and watch TV (or play on the computer, or whatever). In northern climes, I guess that means you need to bundle up and get outside in the winter. In the desert Southwest US, you probably just get more sunny days.Delete
I find that when I'm writing I almost never watch TV... I'm always thinking about writing, or reading something that might inspire me, or actually writing. I watch far less TV/Netflix than I did a couple of years ago.
Welcome to New Mexico goseigirl! I am a native New Mexican and have lived in my current "village" for nearly 42 years. Karen, I am a newbie to your blog and have really enjoyed your posts. Hygge has long been integral to my life even before I knew it had a name!ReplyDelete
Hi Lisa, and welcome. I visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe once many years ago. I was also taken to the amazing Carlsbad Caverns, which made a strong impression on me even at age 9 or so. You live in a beautiful state.Delete
Thank you for your kind comment!
I just discovered your blog and love this post! I’mReplyDelete
going to have some hygge time this afternoon! I look forward to reading more. Thank you for encouragement to slow down and appreciate the lives we are given.
Hello Jennifer, and thank you for your kind comment. It's the perfect time (in the northern US, at least) for hygge, though I think it's a great idea any time of the year. Perhaps if some of my readers live where it's warm, you'll want to find a comfortable lounge chair, sit where you can see some trees, a garden, a fountain, the ocean (love!) or whatever is natural and beautiful in your vicinity, sip on a cool drink, and just relax and breathe deeply! Or read, or do a crossword, or whatever you find most enjoyable.Delete
I recently found your blog and have been enjoying delving into past posts. I love the list of things you can do that are hygge and don't involve purchasing "stuff". I am in the process of trying to downsize, before we have to!ReplyDelete
Hi slip4, and thank you for reading. There are a lot of things out there marketed as "hygge" (I guess it's actually considered a decorating style too), but true hygge, as my research shows, doesn't involve buying something. Isn't it great that joy is free and within our reach! We just have to look for it.Delete