Winter in West Virginia—and I assume everywhere with deciduous forests—can be challenging. The lush flora that makes our state so beautiful is gone, and the icy conditions can make travel—or even getting out of the house—a bit treacherous. Oh, and the limited amount of sunlight only adds to the melancholy.
Sure, the idea of curling up by the fire with a hot cup of tea is nice, but the forecast of doing it for three months is a bit uncomfortable. I mean, one can only cuddle contently for so long.
Several years ago, when the concept of hygge made its way from Denmark to us here on the other side of the Atlantic, many articles and blog posts started popping up explaining how to hygge, listing hygge habits and hyping the happiness of hygge.
In case you missed it, hygge (pronounced HOO-guh) loosely translates to English as coziness and comfort with a feeling of contentment or well-being. Another fabulous translation I found is “luxuriating in leisureliness.”
For me, hygge started out as simply making the best of a bad situation, but now I actually look forward to preparing my nest for a cozy and comfy season. I see winter as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the life I have created.
I suspect this has long been the mindset of the Danish, which helps explain why Denmark dominates the World Happiness Report year after year.
The fundamentals of hygge seem to be all about setting a cozy mood, getting comfort and treating yourself to some of life’s finest pleasures. I’ve listed a few helpful pointers below and included a link to a lovely template you can use to create your own hygge plan.
Set the Mood
- Soft, warm lighting is of the utmost important for creating hygge. Check your lightbulbs and consider switching to 2700K – 3500K bulbs. You many also want to consider adding a dimmer to your overhead lighting. Twinkling string lights also create a lovely ambiance.
- Candles can actually pull double-duty in the hygge department. In addition to pleasing your sense of sight, they can also please your sense of smell. Find a candle with a warm, calming fragrance and make it your signature scent by lighting it every evening when you get home. Eventually, the smell alone will bring on a sense of well-being.
- Filling your house with relaxing music is super hygge-rific. Check out this Hygge Spotify playlist or create your own.
- Bring nature inside with evergreen arrangements, wreaths and garlands. Bowls of pinecones and nuts also add nice fractals and soothing natural textures to your home.
- First and foremost, give yourself permission to slow down. It is not enjoyable to run errands on cold dark evenings. Consider ordering your necessities online for delivery, or plan to knock out your errands on Saturday mid-afternoon.
- Breaking out the quilts and soft blankets is more of a requirement than a suggestion, but you may also want to consider changing to flannel bedding or adding an electric blanket to your nest.
- Warm, comfortable pajamas or “lounge clothes” as my husband calls them, are also a requirement. Find some that you love and can’t wait to slip into every evening.
- Designate yourself a signature libation after experimenting to find what brings you the most pleasurable warm: hot tea, coffee (if you are one of the rare birds that can drink it in the evening and not be up till 3:00 in the morning), warm cordials or red wine.
- Be sure to treat sunlight as the very precious resource it is in the winter. Find a spot where you can work and rest by a window. Get outside on sunny days and enjoy the quiet beauty of winter, then savor coming indoors to a cozy home.
- Do you enjoy cooking… or eating? Imagine creating a plan to indulge this passion all winter long. Prepare a different healthy, hearty soup every week. Experiment with recipes for baked goods or yummy treats. Have a goal of cooking Sunday dinners for your friends and loved ones.
- Relish in the abundant time you have to enjoy current hobbies or find new ones. Winter is the perfect time for knitting, drawing, journaling, reading, playing board games and watching movies.
- Start a bath ritual. A good warm bath will effectively raise your body temperature on super cold evenings and if you curate a bath to a satisfy your five senses, it can be a great form of self-care too.
- Celebrate special days. Several American holidays fall within the winter months: New Years, Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day. But there are also many less widely celebrated holidays like Chinese New Year on Feb. 5, and Fat Tuesday on March 5. Mark your calendar and come up with creative and fun ways to celebrate.
- Especially for my fellow introverts out there, it is important to maintain relationships even when it’s hard to get outside. Luckily, I have a great bunch of neighbors, and since we live in a small townhouse community, it its easy to pop into someone’s house without getting in the car or even bundling up. Several years ago, Shawn and I hosted a “Hibernal Humpday Happy Hour” every Wednesday in February. Our house was open from 5:00 – 7:00 for drinks, snacks and socialization. Everyone brought a drink or snack, and they even brought their own glass which made the gatherings effortless.
It’s easy to think of what we are missing in the winter, which creates a feeling of scarcity. It is only when we realize what winter offers in abundance, and take the time to alter our lifestyle, that true pleasure can be achieved in the cold season.
Winter offers us time slowed down. How we choose to spend that time makes all the difference.
What’s your ultimate hygge plan?