Let’s say it gets cold outside at some point. You’re going to want to know about the benefits of hygge.
Photo by Michael Johanson.
Winter is the worst. I could list all the reasons, but you know them already: it’s dark when you wake up, dark when you leave work; the cold can make your whole body tense and on-edge; everything can seem bleak and black. BLERGH. Or rather, normally I’d be all BLERGH. This year, I’m trying to be more HYGGE. Which sort of sounds like the same guttural utterance one might make in dismal misery, but it’s actually the opposite!
The Danish concept of hygge1 is all about the joy one can take in small, cozy pleasures. Not crazy once-in-a-lifetime stuff like the joy of a trip to Iceland or some exotic vacation, or the joy in achieving something you’ve been working for, although those sorts of things can be fun and you can certainly take pleasure in them. Rather, if the holidays can be seen as a time we celebrate with extravagant gestures, hygge is about celebrating the smallest of pleasures.
Hygge is more about the everyday coziness we can conjure up; it’s sort of the day-to-day equivalent of the My Favorite Things song. Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…those things, those small things that are not in and of themselves huge and significant, but involve a deeper feeling of contentment and coziness. A thick hand-thrown mug filled with cocoa that you want so badly to Instagram, it’s that perfect.
So. Since winter makes me a grumpy person, I’m trying to consciously cultivate some hygge in our home. Here’s how:
Every Sunday evening, I light a bunch of candles in the living room to set the tone for the end of the week and the beginning of the next. It’s this really calm, quiet time for reflection on the week past, and thoughts about what I want to do in the week to come, but not in a super stressful “plan out the to-do list” way. There’s something about the glow of candles, isn’t there? See also: fire pits.
Jeanette Winterson wrote, “I have noticed that when all the lights are on, people tend to talk about what they are doing–their outer lives. Sitting round in candlelight or firelight, people start to talk about how they are feeling–their inner lives. They speak subjectively, they argue less, there are longer pauses.”
I think that’s what happens when we switch from the lights to the cozy candles or fire pit. Maybe we become a little more real, a little more authentic, a little more ourselves.
I’m not a huge baker, but there’s something very ancient and human about kneading dough and baking it into bread. The feeling of creating it is something that feels right–like something you should do during the cold winter. And there’s that scent throughout the house! There’s nothing cozier than walking into your home from fetching the mail to be reminded that, with a gust of warm bready goodness in the air, your belly will soon be full of bread you can all share together.
Making warm things (in my case, quilting)
Maker skills are all the rage. I just finished my first quilt, and I’m ready to dive into the next. But it’s not just about being a maker that has gotten me into the art. There’s something special about curling up on the couch with a good documentary2 and a warm quilt you’re piecing together, especially if you’re making it for someone you love. And this is a really important aspect of hygge–it’s not just about you; it’s about the coziness you can experience with those you love.
Walking together for coffee on weekends
There is coziness to be found in routine. Walking the same path, bundled up in those warm woolen mittens, and trekking our way to our regular coffee spot is comfy and cozy because it is a part of our weekend life. It’s not just a run to crowded Starbucks, it’s a Thing We Do Together, rosy-cheeked and watching our breath turn icy in the air. You’re together, there’s a chill in the air, but you’ll have your warm drink, and look! A chipmunk! You see them every time, but they’re still like little Disney characters come to life.
Oh my god, bathrobes. Did you know they allow you to basically walk around your house cuddled up in a blanket ALL DAY if you want? What a time to be alive.
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So as we all face the bleak midwinter, let’s do it with our heads held high, our spirits maybe a bit brighter, and look for ways to incorporate moments of cozy pleasure and togetherness into our lives. I’ll try to do that, even while I’m tugging on my mittens, wishing for spring.