It’s hard to believe, but winter is a tough sell for a lot of people. The fleeting daylight hours and plummeting temperatures, the need to bundle up in layer after layer, the blinding snowstorms—it doesn’t work for them. They want to grumble away into a dark cave and hibernate. And yet it’s perfectly possible to turn the constraints of winter into cozy comforts. The Danes, for instance, have long since figured it out. For them, winter is the high season for a special kind of well-being they call hygge.
Hygge is a Danish word, pronounced “HU-ga,” that has no exact English equivalent. It takes the connotations of words like cozy, fireplace, home, warmth, love, and fulfilment and bundles them all up together. It’s the feeling of being calm, happy, and satisfied.
In the Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, Danish researcher Meik Wiking even cites hygge as the reason Denmark consistently sits near the top of the World Happiness rankings.
Happiness depends on a lot of different things, but it’s still nice to think that a few hygge principles worked into your routine can, without too much effort, fill your days with all sorts of humble joys.
Making your winter more hyggelig*
*Hyggelig = that which involves or induces hygge.
Favour comfortable clothes
One of the bedrock principles of hygge is comfort. Always and everywhere. If you need an excuse to dig out your scarves, fluffy sweaters, fleecy cardigans, and the like—here it is.
Note however that “comfortable clothes” does not mean raggy pyjamas with a shapeless t-shirt. A flattering wool sweater or stretch fabric pants are in fact every bit as comfortable and don’t sacrifice style.
The bottom line is to choose clothes you feel good in and that keep you warm and cozy.
Break out the comfort food
Hygge is often associated with high-fat foods or sweet treats, but you can also find winter recipes that are both good for you and deeply satisfying.
Get out your slow cooker and explore the infinite options out there for nourishing stews, chili, and curries. Those kinds of dishes can do wonders for your lunchbox too—a touch of warmth and comfort all through the workweek. Need inspiration? Here are some recipe ideas for a well-stocked freezer.
Take a break
Take time and savour the moment by doing something enjoyable and relaxing, without setting a specific goal. The positive effects of relaxation on the body are well known, so go ahead and take a break once in a while, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Here are a few highly hyggelig practises to try out next time you’re home in a snowstorm:
- Take a nap
- Dive into a good-but-not-too-complicated book
- Watch a movie you know so well you can say the lines before the actors do
- Play a board game
- Have friends over and make dinner together
- Sort through the pictures from a trip you feel nostalgic about
- Do nothing
Go out and play
Staying inside can be tempting, but don’t pass up chances to get some fresh air. Whether you’re walking in the city, snowshoeing, skiing for the day on the mountain, or hiking through snow-clad evergreen woods, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get out there and enjoy winter, and you owe it to yourself to explore them.
You’ll be wowed at how being outdoors enhances the moments you spend relaxing afterwards. Picture yourself curled up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa after a day in the great outdoors. That’s the feeling!
Get away from it all
There’s nothing more hyggelig than taking a few days off somewhere in the heart of the wilderness.
Whether you go solo, as a couple, or with a group of friends, you’ll find plenty of options for relaxing winter getaways. Here are a few to look into:
- Renting a cabin in the woods
- Finding a friendly little inn to stay at
- Spending a few days in a yurt or rustic cabin in a national park
Keep an eye on your lighting
It makes sense that winter would be the time of year to enjoy cozy, soothing light. Here are a few tips for surrounding yourself with the kind of gentle, subdued lighting typical of hygge:
- Go with light bulbs that glow with a warm light.
- Use strategically placed floor and table lamps instead of more aggressive ceiling lights.
- Light some candles (remember to air out the room once in a while).
- Hang strings of decorative lights for added magic.
- If you have a fireplace, light a fire in it now and again. If you don’t, no problem. There are many fireplace videos online that let you enjoy the glow of the flames and the crackle of the fire, emissions-free.
Say yes to cocooning
Sometimes you just feel like spending some quiet time at home with your favourite folks. And why not? If our tough Canadian winters don’t entitle you to a little downtime indoors, what does?
And when the mercury sinks so far down that going outside seems more like a chore, make the best of it. Let your inner homebody run wild and bundle up in a blanket with a plate of pierogi, bagels, or butter tarts.
Cozify your home
It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to turn your home into an oasis of calm and relaxation. Just get rid of the clutter a bit: ditch any distracting visuals and unfinished projects with the wrong kinds of associations. It can make all the difference. Take a look at our recommendations for socially responsible decluttering.
And if you’re hankering for a change, hit the local second-hand stores for one-of-a-kind items that add that little something to your home. There are also ways to give new life to stuff you already have. Sometimes a change here and there is enough to transform your home into a perfect paragon of hygge.
Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, Penguin Life, 2016, 288 pages
Hygge Canada, 14 Day Winter Hygge Challenge