In the midst of the early darkness that somehow seems to take us by surprise every year, I have been scouring the internet for ways to avoid that dreaded seasonal depression.
To me, seasonal depression feels like being encapsulated by a heavy blanket of low motivation, fatigue and social withdrawal.
During this research, I came across a practice called hygge (“hyoo-guh”). Hygge may present a way to turn this heavy blanket into something to be embraced, like a fresh fleece right out of the dryer.
Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for “coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or wellbeing.” The Scandinavian countries that hygge originated from are known for being some of the coldest regions in the world yet somehow still amongst the happiest. Individuals in these areas have learned how to take the cold, dark and windy months and turn them into seasons of bringing loved ones close, enjoying good food and surrounding yourself with comforting items.
“Hygge is being consciously cozy,” said Meik Viking, the founder of the Happiness Research Institute and author of "The Little Book of Hygge." “But it has also been described as the art of creating a nice atmosphere. It's been called the pursuit of everyday happiness. It's also been called socializing for introverts. But it's about being with the people you love, it's about relaxation, it's about indulgence, it's about good food, it's about gratitude, it's about equality. All those things mixed together is hygge.”
It is more than likely that most of us are already practicing hygge to some extent. Especially during the cold winter months. However, here are a few ways to consciously make hygge a part of your everyday life.
Using more blankets
Blankets are one of the most crucial things to make a house feel like a home. There is no better feeling than snuggling up on the couch and wrapping yourself in your favorite blanket. My favorite way to incorporate blankets into my space is by keeping one on my bed at all times, but also one on the big chair in the living room and at least two on the couch. This way, the blankets are always available for use by guests. This ensures you and all visitors feel comforted and warm at all times. Big blankets also encourage sharing. :)
Making warm food
There is something about holding a warm bowl or mug that is just incredibly comforting. That heat around your hands always seems to pass through your whole body and just calm you down. Winter months are the perfect time to whisk up a good soup or brew homemade teas. Slow cooking especially also makes your home smell amazing, just adding to the comfort.
Surrounding yourself with close friends or family
We all know the holidays as a time for friends and family, but often this sentiment is overlooked when the season comes to an end and a new semester begins. It is crucial that in the dreary winter months we surround ourselves with the people that we love, the people that make us laugh, feel good about ourselves and make us excited for every day or small event. The people you hold closest should make you feel like your life’s problems aren’t all that big when you have someone else to share them with.
Lighting more candles
Lighting candles not only goes back to making your space smell good, but it also adds ambient lighting. Oftentimes overhead lighting can just be too harsh to create a relaxing environment. Things like candles, lamps, neon signs, etc. help to create an environment of relaxation.
Picking up a couple new books
There is something about picking up a new book that just makes you feel like you have your life together. After all, reading for fun is such a grown thing to do! Curling up on the couch with a blanket, a coffee and a burning candle is the epitome of hygge (and conveniently also the optimal way to read). Books help you escape to new situations that encourage your sense of wonderment and adventure.
At the end of the day, hygge is all about going through life with your well-being and enjoyment as a priority. While the holidays, the new semester and the trials and tribulations of day-to-day life may be looming, there is still peace to be found. Hygge reminds us that it is crucial to nurture yourself, no matter your age.