Winter has arrived, and with it comes those cold, long, dark days that can sometimes feel overwhelming. It’s easy to be defeated by the ongoing cold, dreary weather. In fact some people can even suffer from a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that’s triggered in the fall and lasts through the winter months. But the Danish people have figured out a way to combat the dark chill of winter: it’s a lifestyle approach they call hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) designed to make the cold months more bearable.
The word hygge roughly translates to coziness, and it’s a concept that has become trendy around the world in the past few years. And it makes sense: winters have always been cold, but with access to a 24-hour news cycle filled with troubling stories, the desire for coziness and peace has perhaps never been stronger.
Denmark is always at the top of the list of the world’s happiest countries, despite the fact that they have notoriously harsh winters1, so the idea of seeking out and embracing anything and everything that makes you feel snug and cozy is probably a very good idea.
What’s even better is sharing the coziness with friends, family and all those around you!
How to create hygge
- Know your cozy. Take five minutes and write down a list of all the things that make you feel snug and cozy. It could be things you wear, activities you do, hobbies you enjoy, things you eat or drink, something you love to read, a person you love to be with – absolutely anything and everything that makes you feel that deep, warm sense of contentment.
- Plan for comfort. Hygge doesn’t just happen – you have to be purposeful and make it happen. Look at your list and see what you need to do to cozy up your life. If hot chocolate by the fire is your hygge, make sure you’re never out of wood and cocoa, and set aside time to enjoy that experience as often as you need to. Write it in your calendar if you need to schedule it in – just make it happen.
- Light it up. Part of what can make winter so unbearable is the lack of light. String some fairy lights up to create a warm glow, and flip them on as soon as the sun starts to set. In fact, if you’re troubled by SAD, consider talking to your doctor about the benefit of a light therapy box to help you cope with your symptoms.
- Take time for you. By nature, hygge requires you to think about what makes you happy and comforted, and then do it. If that means telling your partner and kids that you will be unavailable for 20 minutes while you soak in a warm tub with a good book and some candles, so be it. Carve out that important “me time.”
- Be present. Our minds have been trained to race ahead to try to solve the next potential challenge coming our way. Hygge is about slowing down that hamster wheel and reveling in what’s happening right now. If you are snuggled up under a blanket watching your favorite old movie, notice the feel of the blanket, listen carefully to the dialogue, and breathe deeply as you relax into the bliss of doing something that’s bringing you comfort. Everything else can wait.
Sharing the comfort
Everyone knows how good it feels to bring comfort to someone else, but science can back up the notion that doing good makes you feel good! Studies have shown that the act of performing good deeds is actually beneficial for your own mental health and well-being,2 so spread the hygge! Bake cookies for a friend, take soup over to a sick neighbor, make mittens for the homeless, or actively participate in a random act of kindness movement like The Random Act of Kindness Foundation, Owl Be Kind for Thomas, or Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere.
Foresters can even help you spread hygge throughout your community. Apply online for a financial grant to help you organize a charitable activity that’s meaning both for you and your community. You might put together comfort kits for your local women’s shelter, organize a food drive for your food bank, make home cooked meals for those in need, or even beautify a neglected community space to bring joy to everyone who passes by.
Finding and then reveling in whatever gives us comfort is a great strategy for coping with the dark days of winter. But it’s also just a good, healthy way to live no matter what season it is, so continue to seek out, embrace, and enjoy the things that give you comfort all year long!
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