Here in Illinois, winter has reared its ugly head at last. The sun is setting closer to lunch than dinner time, the weather is slowly but surely approaching unbearably low temperatures, and for many, the holidays are approaching all too quickly.
My mental health tends to plummet in the winter. Each day, the sun’s early departure takes my motivation with it as it fades into night. Any healthy habits suddenly become chores (working out is hard to do when it feels like I should be hibernating), leading to a cycle of seasonal sadness that can be very hard to beat. Winter’s arrival has made me question how people in colder parts of the world survive at all. This curiosity has led me to do some research to understand how the world has learned to cope with bad weather, because if there is a secret to finding more happiness in the winter time, I want in on it.
Enter The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. As the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen, Wiking knows a thing or two about finding happiness, even in the dark and cold of winter. According to the Danes, the key to happiness in the colder months is all about creating hygge. Hygge can be described in many ways, but my favorite definition from the book is “coziness of the soul”. In other words, one of our best bets for staying happy in the winter is to create as much coziness, in as many ways, as possible. Throughout the remainder of this post, I will be walking through some of the suggestions I have taken from this book and added into my daily philosophy in the winter.
In order to implement hygge into your life, we must first understand the importance of coziness in the winter. Winter marks a time of loss for me; The loss of sunlight, the loss of opportunities to do outdoor activities, the loss of half of my wardrobe (if you’re anything like me, you’re really missing Birkenstock weather right now). These losses can be overwhelming if we don’t find new ways to make up for them during the winter. Hygge is all about adding pleasure into our days in ways that make winter feel special. The “Hygge Manifesto” lists vastly important things to add into our lives during the winter, in order to make the winter months bearable, if not enjoyable. Below are three ways to make your winter merry and bright, according to the hygge master himself.
When you think of a cozy space, what comes to mind? For me, it’s blankets, a fireplace, pajamas, and a cup of hot cocoa. In order to create a hygge-approved space, it’s important to understand what cozy means to you. The Danish people love candles, lamps, and a lack of overhead lighting (too sterile). The yellower the light, the better. If you can find a way to enjoy the few hours of sunlight winter allows us a day, do so (a high quality vitamin-D supplement works, too). All of these hygge-fications are really just ways to bring in more light to keep our brains feeling warm and content.
It can be tempting in the winter to spend hours of time scrolling through TikTok or Instagram to make the day go by faster. However, research shows that time spent on social media may be making life more difficult for us in the winter. There are few, if any, benefits to our happiness from browsing on our phones. Instead, hygge hopes we find ways of being present. If we need to pass the time, we should practice reading, journaling, or chatting with friends. These activities allow us to remain conscious of the world around us, finding bits and pieces of our environment to find joy in, rather than run away from. Remember: Hygge is about adding in, so whatever new cozy activity you can start up will help you have a better winter.
What comes to mind when you think of treating yourself? Chocolate, cookies, ANOTHER cup of coffee? Whether it’s food or not, one of the easiest ways to bring some hygge into our lives is to be an advocate for your own happiness during the winter. If a friend was sad, would we ever deny them a small treat, or a new pair of fuzzy socks? Treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend and allow for a little bit of extra joy in each day. Winter is a time of survival, and survival is much easier when you give yourself something to look forward to each and every day.
Hygge is a practice that we could all benefit from. Whether it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, holiday and family stress, or just a bit of winter blues, dedicating some time out of each day to bring a bit of coziness to our life can make these darker days a bit more bearable. Happy Hygge-ing!
To buy your own copy of The Little Book of Hygge: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Hygge-Danish-Secrets/dp/0062658808/ref=sr_1_1?crid=36O3UZ3YUC6D9&keywords=the+little+book+of+hygge&qid=1670865163&s=books&sprefix=the+little+book+of%2Cstripbooks%2C123&sr=1-1