Who wants a hygge?
No, its not a spelling mistake, Hygge is the latest wellbeing trend taking the world by storm, and given the current state of affairs (in case you are reading this in the future we are currently facing a winter of lockdowns!) hygge could well be a nice way to make it all seem a little less grim, but it isn’t all candles and warm blankets as some would have you believe, it is a mindset, and it is a mindset that could well help this ‘winter of discontent’ become the winter you finally find yourself and give your true self a great big hygge hug!
So, lets start with how you even say it! My understanding is that in Denmark (where it is from) it is pronounced Hoo-ga, but in my house it has firmly become Hoo-gee, as there is something cute about words ending in the ‘ee’ sound, and brings to mind yogi bear and hugs for some reason! But really for this exercise you can call it whatever works for you, this is not about being trendy, it is about learning and loving, and maybe a whole heap of hugging.
In Denmark, where during the winter the nights are very long, and the weather can be pretty grim hygge is a feeling that is created in many different ways, it is also a prefix that is added to words to recognise them as part of the hygge feeling, so you can have hygge-socks (think warm and fluffy) hygge-food (think simple comfort food) Hygge-drinks (mainly coffee and hot chocolate) It seems anything can be hygge if it is feeding into a sense of comfort and warmth. Within all of this there is a ready acceptance of that which is not controllable (the weather, the hours of daylight) combined with an enthusiasm to make the current existence pleasant-and that is a mindset, not a set of cushions.
There is a real sense of mindfulness and presence to hygge which I believe is where the magic lays. You can surround yourself with as many candles and cups of hot chocolate as you like, if your mind is not right there with the warmth, the light, the peace, then it will do you no real good. The practice of hygge in Denmark is inbuilt, it is done right form the earliest days of childhood, if you are exposed to this level of connection, of being, then it will be more natural to you, but as most of us in England have not had this kind of upbringing it may take a little more work to start with.
So, where to start? I believe that rather than trying to emulate hygge as it is done in Denmark we can take this opportunity to see what we have and to turn our attention to being more hygge in our attitudes and connections rather than just in our surroundings (don’t worry that will come later, I promise you can buy fluffy socks and candles if you want!)
First up we need to quiet the chatter. There is so much chatter at the moment, and when I say chatter what I mean is the voices of fear and anxiety. The current language being used by the media and the government is incredibly negative and feeds the fear of what is to come, and all this does for most of us is take away the pleasure of what is, right now, right at this very moment which is enjoyable. So once again I urge you to switch off from the media (be that social or mainstream), control your news consumption. Whatever is going on with the virus, with government choices is very much out of your sphere of control currently. This is not to say don’t educate yourself or hold informed opinions or take informed actions, but when we are looking at creating a more peaceful loving environment it does not contain excessive media consumption. When you do decide to consume news then do it mindfully, with awareness of how it is making you feel, if it is something you can take action about or if it is in fact just feeding fear about something you have no wider control over, and then decide going forwards what action feeds your feeling of hygge, that of love, warmth, gentleness and connection.
Next up is connection. So again, we are being told to ‘limit’ our connections to no more than 6 people, and should lockdown happen again that could be even more ‘limited’ to just your immediate household. I appreciate that some people are more social than others. I chuckle a little at the term ‘limit’ to six, as to be honest from a social perspective I count myself incredibly lucky to be able to have 5 people outside of my immediate family who I will happily socialise with, so 6 is in fact a bit of a stretch for me! So just check in for a minute and count your blessings of having 6 people you have to spend time with. Do you notice how incredibly ‘hygge’ it feels to count your blessings of friendship rather than feeling limited? There is no change on the situation except how you view it and how you feel about it. And as for spending time with ‘only’ the people of your household, although I appreciate not everyone is in a safe and healthy home environment, for those of us who are it is a blessing. Now don’t think I have totally lost my marbles to the hygge bliss I also accept that spending time with those of our household can be a royal pain in the arse, I am not expecting us all to go live in an Instagram worthy house of family bliss, but there are moments where you can just sit back and enjoy, and that is where the more recognisable elements of hygge come in. Hanging out on the sofa with your kids watching a trashy film eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate in comfy trousers and fluffy socks is very hygge, and even more so if you are not caught up in a whirlwind of worries about what is to come, what needs to be done, the future of the modern world as we know it. None of these things will change should we think about them or not, so simply giving yourself permission to be in the moment and enjoy your household for whom they are and where they are at right at that moment is incredibly connected, aware, and ‘hygge’. It is not about perfection; it is about acceptance and enjoyment of what is.
Climate is also a big part of hygge, and this is something that I believe us Brits could really do with some work around. We are universally obsessed with the weather, it is such a popular topic of conversation, in fact some newspapers thrive on extreme weather forecast headlines simply because they know we love it! It is either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too windy too snowy. We do not appear to cope well with most weather types, and this is because generally speaking we do not happily accept that which is. We want it all, we want to be able to do whatever we want in the way we want to, whatever the weather. As a body worker I see the ravages of the climate on many clients be it physically or emotionally. Stiff joints due to the damp, hunched up shoulders battling the wind and rain, low energy due to the lack of sunlight. All these things are real, yet with a little awareness we can lower the impact. We are very much solar powered, the summer months of long days are our high energy times, but how often do we really use this time to energise, to be outside sucking up the vitamin D and fresh air, because so many of us are stuck inside working or learning, as a nation we really must start being outside more during the times of light and warmth. And when was the last time you opened up and allowed yourself to embrace a windy day. When did you last fly a kite, or dance in the rain, allowing yourself to get soaked through, laughing at the wildness of life in all its elements? This is real inner child work, go stomp through some crunchy autumn leaves, find shiny conkers and play a conker tournament with your 6 friends, go for a wild swim and feel truly alive and connected. When it next snows, lets hope that we are in lockdown so that there is no pressure to go to work, lets all build snowmen, have a snowball fight-we will all be grateful for those masks then, they will keep our noses warm! The point is embracing the outside when we can, makes snuggling up inside when we can’t all the more enjoyable. Staying home is a good thing when we fully embrace going out when we do so. Again, it is all about presence.
Atmosphere and ambience is the final part of hygge that we can get to, and yep now we can look at candles and fluffy blankets. Candles make nearly any environment seem more beautiful, the warmth of the flame, the flickering light. The way that things sparkle under candle light makes it magical, should you take a moment to look. If you have a wood burner then even better to get that warm glow occurring. It seems that one of the key hygge principles is lighting, so if not candles then beautiful lamps, or fairy lights. There is no right or wrong, just look at how you can soften your lighting, and enjoy the fact that the evenings draw in earlier so that you can cosy up even sooner. Don’t fight the darkness, welcome it as a time to settle down, snuggle down and simply be in the moment with whomever and with whatever brings you bliss.
So in conclusion, yes it is the start of a long winter, so enjoy those you are closest to in the softness of low lights (no need for makeup and haircuts, everyone looks gorgeous by candle light) Eat cake, drink coffee, and invest in that which makes you feel comfortable and happy, for some that may be fluffy blankets and fairy lights, and others a new pipe, slippers and a vibrator…enjoy yourself this winter, stay safe, stay home, stay happy and hygge till you can hygge no more xx