Hygge: noun, (pronounced hue-guh or hoo-gah). Definition: A Danish/Norwegian word meant to describe a sense of coziness, warmth, and happiness.
Every winter, I get the blues. The feeling starts to creep in before the holidays, but I think the hustle and bustle usually keeps it hidden beneath the surface until after New Years. I don’t always realize it is happening, but after removing all the cheery decorations and saying goodbye to family members, there isn’t much left to do. I live in rural Pennsylvania, where the snow falls hard and the temps get cold. I absolutely hate driving in the snow, except for when it is necessary, like for work or to go to the store, so I tend not to make many plans. At first, the quietness is welcomed, but after awhile, I start to feel like I am just going through the motions, just trying to get by until the Spring comes along.
Last year was especially depressing, I don’t know why (maybe I could sense what 2020 was actually going to bring, or maybe I just realized I was going through some hormonal changes…maybe a combination of reasons). Whatever it was, I was tired of not enjoying life and being snippy with people around me. I decided to look online (the answers are always there, right?). I asked Google, “How can I enjoy winter more?” There were different kinds of advice but one stood out and I wanted to know more…Hyyge.
It is hard to describe hygge in words, because it is more of a feeling, or a sense of wellness brought about by being cozy and present. The Danes created hygge out of necessity: they have very dark and cold winters. I can’t even imagine with how much I tend to not like winter, having to deal as much as they do! So, they found a way to embrace the winter and find happiness in the warmth they create around them, both figuratively and literally.
Hygge should be natural, not stressful, but really can be anything that you can find joy in. To get to this place, you need to be aware of your surroundings and create a sense of warmth and coziness. It is a mindset, where instead of looking at playing out in the snow as something negative, like I always have, just get the right gear to keep you warm, make some hot chocolate for when you are done, and go out and find the joy, just like a child does.
CREATING A HYGGE ENVIRONMENT
A major component of feeling hygge is the lighting and the atmosphere. Imagine soft, warm, twinkling lights, low watt bulbs, or candles all over. Think warm, soft blankets, a cozy spot just for you or your friends, a nook or a fireplace, it doesn’t matter…just keep it warm and soft. Imagine if you could create a room that represents a reassuring hug. Most people love their lounge wear anyway, so this part may come easy, but find something that you love to lounge in and wear thick wooly socks and instead of worrying about how you look, focus on how you feel. If you can, try to create peacefulness in your clothes and your surroundings.
HYGGE FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Food can also cause a sense of comfort, but not just by eating your favorite foods. Hygge is about not restricting what you want, so even though January is usually all about restrictions and diets, hygge dictates you do what pleases you and enjoy the process. Maybe, like me, you like making a homemade ham pot pie (the Dutch version with large homemade noodles, potatoes, and ham) like my Grandma used to make. Hygge is about enjoying the chopping of the ham and potatoes, the careful timing of it all, creating handmade noodles that aren’t too thick or sticky, feeling the dough in your fingers as you listen to your favorite music. This is a hearty recipe that requires some time to make, so while it is all boiling together, maybe you will sit in your “hyggeligt” (the adjective) space you created and sip some warmed cider or a mulled wine. Nothing beats making and eating your favorite foods that literally warm you up inside and make you feel cozy outside. How can you not find happiness?
HYGGE IS NOT A SOLO SPORT
Sometimes my life is very much surrounded by people and I look forward to the precious time alone I might have, if even just to catch up on the shows I like that no one else watches. Following the holidays, though, I usually end up focusing more on the loneliness than enjoying the solitude. Hygge taught me to embrace that time alone. I love cozying up in the chair normally reserved for my husband, blankets on, wooly socks and comfy pants on, a hot cup of coffee, watching episodes of Doctor Who that I have seen several times before. However, solitude is not all hygge is about. I also had many moments of hygge with my family. Last winter’s favorite memory was taking my then one year old granddaughter sled riding in our yard. Instead of hating the cold, I prepared better. I wore fleece lined leggings with sweatpants on top, those warm wooly hygge socks I love so much, waterproof boots, coats, gloves, my knit hat (I know you would assume living in PA most my life I would have been more prepared, but I always avoided those things because I avoid the snow). Her mom and I took turns taking her down the hill, while her PaPa made a dinky little snowman. Our neighbors, we found out later, enjoyed watching us all play. And the thing that made it all hygge was my awareness of the gratitude I felt for each moment. Yes, we could do this all the time, but this time felt special. I loved the rosy glow of her cheeks, the laughter from her mom as she almost slid into the street, and the running around while having a snowball fight. I felt the warmth and the coziness on the inside, no matter how cold it was outside.
Afterward, we had some hot chocolate and laughed and probably just got tired and watched TV. Maybe not classically hygge, but that was my most memorable hygge of last winter. I taught my daughters about hygge and now we use the term to mean anything that feels warm and safe. I made an instant pot pumpkin steel cut oatmeal for breakfast recently and we all thought it was very hygge.
I hope I have been able to portray what hygge is. It isn’t something you can buy or sell, it isn’t something you really have to work at, it is more of an abstract idea. Sometimes, I want to feel hygge, so I work on it, but other times I am doing something and I automatically find the hygge in it. Hygge isn’t just for winter, either. I find I need it more during the winter, but why save that feeling for one season. Explore finding hygge whenever and wherever you are. In the Spring, go to a nursery and smell and pick out flowers for your home. In the Summer, I found hygge by sitting on my porch with a cold drink and good book. Use your senses and enjoy the moments, and you will feel hygge and the sense of contentment it brings.
What makes you feel hygge? Do you ever just take the time to enjoy the moments? Comment and let me know other ways you combat the winter blues. Please follow my website with your email address, it is only for me to send you weekly updates. Head over to my social media and like and follow those too.
Never mind, I reread the first part!
How is this word pronounced? While reading this I said different ways in my mind.