‘Hygge is about enjoying the simple pleasures in life and can be achieved on a shoestring budget’, Meik Wiking
Hygge. The concept everyone needs during Covid-19 autumn and winter.
We are all fed up and bored with Ms. Rona, aren’t we? Wherever you are posted or live, you will have been affected by this global pandemic (perhaps multiple times over). Some countries’ rules may be stricter than others, but the premise is the same. We’re over it and dreading short winter days as they are nipping at our heels every day. So what is hygge? Why might embracing hygge during Covid-19 be in our interest?
Where does hygge come from?
The word hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) first appeared in the 18th Century in Danish writings. Originally it was an old Norwegian word (hugga) that means ‘well-being’. It is often said that Danes are some of the happiest people in the world, which given they have long, cold and dark winters is fairly interesting! Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute of Copenhagen says that the concept of hygge is, “a defining feature of our cultural identity and an integral part of the national DNA.” In his Little Book Of Hygge he goes so far as to say “…what freedom is to Americans…hygge is to Danes.”
Though we don’t have a direct translation, the closest in the English language would be coziness. Though they would say its high season is Christmas, the concept can be applied in every season.
It is consciously doing things that stimulate and encourage feelings of peace, happiness, and comfort. It evokes all the senses that humans need to be emotionally content. Think on the wavelengths of satisfying all five senses – smell, taste, touch, hearing, and sight as well as movement.
It is warm soft lighting, slow-cooked meals, home-baked bread, and warm apple pie.
It is big cozy blankets and thick woolly socks.
It is knitted hats and huge scarves on a cold winter’s day.
It is sitting around a table drinking mulled wine with your family or a meandering weekend brunch with a great friend.
It is relief in a world that has you surrounded from all sides and demands you move faster and faster.
Sounds pretty tempting, doesn’t it?
How can we make our lives more hyggelig (hygge-like)?
How we light our homes during months of shorter days and more darkness has a huge impact on our moods and mental wellbeing. Many who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may use daylight bulbs to boost our emotional state. Ambient lighting is a great way to change the atmosphere in a room. For example, when you have a bath you may light some candles and switch off the lights. This immediately gives off a calm and peaceful room state. The same may go for having an evening meal with friends; dimming the lights and lighting candles set off a homey, intimate, and warm setting.
Is there anything more cozy and welcoming when you come into a house that smells of freshly baked bread, a cottage fireplace, or vanilla and cinnamon scented candles? Memories of festive holidays may spring to mind that feel like warm hugs at the forefront of our mind. Our smell is so emotive, so use it to your advantage.
With winter weekends and Covid-19 guidelines encouraging us to stay indoors more than we may normally do, we have more time to think about food. With bizarre trends of sourdough making skyrocketing, why not get out your slow cookers and cook warm, comforting home stews with warm farmhouse bread? Or do some baking? The aromas of the food will linger through the house, adding to that cozy feeling of hygge.
Being British, hot drinks (in particular tea and coffee) are a staple in my day. A cup of tea can fix any problem and any occasion. And coffee – well, not many can survive a day of parenting or laundry without it. Whether you curl up in front of the TV with a cuppa or in a book nook under a blanket with a hot chocolate, nothing is quite like it to warm the cockles of your heart. Grab your favourite mug (come on…everyone has a favourite mug, don’t they?!) and curl up.
Did you know there is a thing called ‘hyggebusker’? It refers to those joggers or lounge trousers that you would never even dream of leaving the house in but are the go-to trousers that you immediately throw on as soon as you are home. They are comfort epitomised. We are going for comfort and being in a lot in 2020 has meant shops have angled marketing on comfort over tight clothing. We are talking about warm woolly socks, big woolen jumpers, huge knitted blankets, plush cushions, and heated blankets. Ultimate winter day clothing. The sort you see in a festive Christmas film, with snow-filled windows and a wrapped up person on a sofa drinking hot chocolate.
Put the electronics away
It’s funny, when lockdown happened people talked about how wonderful it felt to slow down and be present. Instead what I soon found was that everyone was on their phones ten times more. More WhatsApp groups appeared, Facebook messenger groups, Houseparty calls, Zoom parties and meetings, more online shopping, more Netflix watching, etc. It all got to be way too much. We were spending even more time on our phones as if we were terrified of being disconnected from the world outside. Being a partial introvert, I find it curious how many people are uncomfortable in their own company.
While hygge does represent cozy, it doesn’t refer to being confined to the indoors for the entirety of a cold season. This isn’t good for anyone’s mental or physical wellbeing. Humans are meant to use their limbs and raise their heartbeat once in a while. One of the pure simple pleasures in life is wrapping up warm – all bundled up in coats, boots, scarves, and pom pom hats – to go for a country walk. Let the cold air touch your cheeks and steamy breath escape your mouth. Get outdoors at least once a day. Walk on your own, take your dog out or if you are Covid-19 allowed, go out with a friend.
Don’t fancy walking? Why not a short run through some woods or a leisurely cycle through your city? It’ll make coming back home for hot cocoa that much more inviting.
What are we doing that isn’t hygge-like?
Being a parent, I find this one hard! I like a pretty strict routine. Mentally I work better with one, and I think most children thrive having one. I have found during 2020, with Saturday early morning swim lessons cancelled and Sunday church services not allowed, that suddenly we had all this time on the weekends. Not having a routine has just been so liberating.
This one is tough too! I mentioned above that putting away electronics is a part of embracing hygge. But they are a large part of our lives now, especially with everyone working from home and with homeschooling requiring screens to do a lot of the work. Not to mention less seeing of friends so more texting or scrolling through Instagram. Being glued to your phone is a bad habit that I will be the first to put my hand up and say I am the worst for it. A couple of months ago, we had the car serviced and I forgot my phone in the car. I felt like I had lost my left leg. Genuinely! Let’s switch off for a while. It’s like breathing fresh air when you do.
Buying trendy hygge items
One of my favourite things about the concept of hygge is that it doesn’t have to cost anything. Slowing down and enjoying the small pleasures does not mean you have to go spend an obscene amount of money on smelly candles, cashmere socks, and the best woolen blankets. Sure, if you can and want to – go ahead! But the good news is that your house doesn’t have to look like an interior design magazine or an influencer’s Instagram page. Scale it back.
Staying indoors all winter
2020 has involved a lot of indoor activity. The virus has given us no choice in some cases. However, if you can and are allowed to go out, then go. Run out there and breathe in nature. Don’t stay under your big blankets and furry socks all winter.