I hear you say to yourself – not another piece about Hygge! I agree, we have been inundated with articles, blogs and books on the subject for the last couple of years and I was initially quite sceptical that I could find a new take on Hygge. Firstly, let’s briefly look at its origins – if you don’t already know. Hygge is a Danish word that describes a cosy feeling or mood; it’s a way the Danes get through the long, dark days of winter by celebrating life’s good moments.
My initial understanding of Hygge was the idea of being cosy at home with candles, blankets and a roaring fire –and most definitely keeping the cold, winter chill firmly outside the front door. Although this is certainly a big part of it, I also believe it’s something that can be enjoyed alone or with family, inside the home or outside in nature. It doesn’t have to be about the big celebrations; it can also be about the everyday, sometimes ordinary things we do. Hygge can mean something different to everyone – what’s important is that we celebrate the little things that make us happy.
We’re all guilty of getting so caught up in the busyness of life that we fail to notice the ordinary (and often beautiful) things around us. Modern life has taught us that we won’t be happy until we have this or that. We then focus on what isn’t right in our lives rather than the good things that we do have. We’re also conditioned to think that if we’re not physically doing something then we’re lazy. As a mum, I know I often feel guilty if I actually find five minutes in the day to sit down and read or dare I say it – drink a cup of coffee that hasn’t gone cold!
Having suffered from low mood and anxiety for more years than I’d like to say, I know too well how we can get trapped in a negative spiral and forget to notice the simple pleasures that are Hygge.
Many people suffering from anxiety are often too afraid to just stop and feel the moment because this often brings up unpleasant feelings. I’ve started to understand that life is a mixture of good and bad. It’s not one or the other; it’s about grabbing the good moments and accepting the not so good moments – only then do they become less significant.
I’ve often asked myself this question and I usually answer it with a list of things I haven’t got. It’s no wonder we spend much of our lives in search of happiness. It’s sad to think that if only we stopped just for a moment, we’d see that it’s right in front of us.
It’s about learning to define happiness in a different way; to embrace those little moments that make us smile. As others who suffer from depression know only too well, winter isn’t the cheeriest of seasons. So, it becomes more important than ever to notice the good things.
Hygge is often associated with cosiness because the Danes needed to find a way to get through the dark winter days. However, since it’s arrival in the UK, I believe that Hygge isn’t just about cosiness, it’s also about feeling contented and appreciating the small things that make life good. For me, I wasted years of my life waiting to be happy instead of noticing that happiness was there all along.
The minute the clocks go back at the end of October, I have an uncontrollable urge to hide under my duvet until spring! My mood plummets and I literally start counting down the days until the clocks go forward again. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one that feels like this! This year, I thought I’d give Hygge a go and try and banish those winter blues.
Instead of worrying about how I was going to afford Christmas this year, I noticed how good I felt when we decorated the tree and put the lights on. So, the first thing I do is to turn on the Christmas tree lights when I come in from the cold. I also began to dot scented candles around and lit them every evening – whether it was just me and my family at home or if we had friends over for dinner. I made hot chocolate with marshmallows or lovingly made a cup of tea in my favourite bone china cup.
I’m certainly not a fan of snow either and always have a tendency to think of the negative aspects like how difficult it will be to drive to work. But this year I’ve pushed those thoughts aside long enough to enjoy the moment. Worrying about how to get to work can wait until I need to drive to work – this day it was about watching my son’s face as he bounded through the newly laid snow.
Despite life’s challenges, noticing the small, everyday moments has made winter that little bit more bearable. Inviting a friend for dinner and trying out a new recipe, a wander through the woods on a freezing cold day or just enjoying a coffee and spending some much-needed down time reading a book are the things that become important. I could go on – but the essential element is to treasure those moments.
Making Hygge part of our lives – any time of year
Hygge traditionally comes from Denmark’s dark winter days; an idea of cosiness and contentment and being happy in the moment. In Britain, we don’t get such drastic extremes of winter but we are an island and with that comes a greyness that often lasts all year.
Why can’t we make Hygge a concept that we can bring into our lives any time of year? After all, if it’s about being happy in the moment and appreciating the good things that we all experience every day, why can’t we make this something we do in Spring, Summer and Autumn? I certainly see no reason why not!
Next time you go on holiday, take Hygge with you. Don’t have unrealistic expectations about what will make your perfect holiday. Take time to relax, notice the little things and if something doesn’t go to plan, don’t focus on what went wrong – enjoy the things that have gone well. Make Hygge something we embrace all year and not something we reserve for those dark winter months.