The Winter daylight is dimly cast across my living room floor. I wrap my sweater a bit tighter around my body. The dark green walls that feel so welcoming in the summer now implore darkness. The carpet feels cold beneath my stocking feet. Even the pair of bright gold chairs feel dull. I’m chilled in my body and my heart, despite the smile on my face and the added layers of clothing.
Cold weather brings less daylight and a change of spirit. (Unless you live near the Equator…if you do, could you please invite me for a visit this Winter?! Thanks, friend!) I dread the season of bulky layers, constantly cold feet, murky weather, and less hours of daylight. This year I find myself anxious about the changing season more than ever before.
Winter in Scandinavia
I know that there is a purpose to four seasons. Spring is for planting, the Summer is for growth, Autumn is the time for harvest, and Winter is the season for rest. How can I take full advantage of Winter this year? How can I fight the cold, take an edge off of the darkness, and embrace this season?
Two years ago I visited Sweden and Denmark. As much as I would encourage you to visit Scandinavia, I may suggest visiting in the warmer months (unless you particularly enjoy cold weather). I was there in February.
In Stockholm, the sun rose around 8:45am and set around 3:00pm. There were limited hours of daylight, plus low temperatures, and it took a toll on my body! I casually joked with my husband, “Please don’t ever make me move here. I don’t know if I could live without the sunshine!”
It wasn’t until a year later that I learned about the the Danish concept of hygge. It has completely changed how I approach Winter.
Hygge makes the Danes the happiest people in the world!
Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) doesn’t have a literal translation. But it’s a Danish concept that helps Danes cope with the long, dark, cold Winters. And it’s consistently helped their citizens to be rated as the happiest people in the world. The brilliant Scandinavian cultures each have their own word for this concept, but the Danes are the most well known for their hygge tendencies.
Hygge is considered an art of intimacy. In English we’d define it as cosy, secure, comforting, simple, familiar, happy, or charming. The Danes can’t make it through their long, cold winters without hygge. And I’m attempting to sustain myself this Winter with hygge too!
It’s sipping hot chocolate in front of a roaring fireplace.
It’s snuggling up in a cozy blanket with your favorite book.
It’s eating dinner by candlelight.
It’s enjoying a cup of steaming coffee while talking with a good friend.
How To Be More Hygge This Winter
Here are the six things that I’m adding to my life this Winter to help me achieve more hygge, cope with the cold weather, and survive the darkness of the season.
Hygge #1: Candles
Nothing is more hygge than candles. Did you know that Danes burn more candle wax than any other people? They average 13 pounds per year. Whew! It makes sense that when the sun sets at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, your body craves more light. Candles are relaxing, comforting, soothing, and hygge.
The weather turned cold mid-October here in Tennessee. The first week of cold weather, I broke out my fancy crystal mini candelabras. They are beautifully positioned in the center of my dining table. About once a week, we eat dinner by candlelight. I don’t have scientific proof, but those tend to be the evenings that we linger at the table, engage in deeper conversations, and head to bed in a more relaxed mood.
My goal this Winter is to have a hygge candlelight dinner at least once per week. On particularly dark days, I may even splurge and enjoy lunch by candlelight as well.
Tip: When you find candles on sale at the end of winter, take advantage – purchase them and save them for the dark season.
Hygge #2: Socks and Sweaters
Candles can warm up a room in the same way that socks and sweaters can warm up your body. I’ve read over and over that if it’s homemade, it’s more hygge. If you’re not the crafty type, no worries. Anything knit is also highly considered to be hygge.
Find some thick wool socks, fuzzy slippers, or whatever else makes your toes warm and happy. Pull on that oversized sweater, favorite sweatshirt, or pretend that your best blankets is actually a cape or shawl (see more about blankets below!).
When I visited Romania, I learned a few fascinating facts about their harsh winters. Clearly people have been living in that part of the world for years and years. Civilizations have managed to survive the cold.
I interpret that to mean that the Romanians have warm clothing. So, while there, I bought myself a 100% wool sweater. It’s scratchy but it’s honestly the most comfortable and warm sweater in my wardrobe. I love it. It has officially become my hygge sweater.
Tip: Bulky and oversized signify comfort. Knit and wool symbolize warmth. But patterns and designs are endless; pick what makes you confident, cozy and hygge!
Hygge #3: Blankets and Books
I’m an avid reader. And by avid I mean that I finish an average of one book per week (50+ books per year). It’s an unusual day if I don’t spend any time reading! This winter I’m going to pull out my favorite blankets and cuddle up while I read.
One blanket is a handmade afghan that my grandmother gave me as a small girl. It reminds me of her and brings me joy, which instantly sets the mood for hygge. I also have a collection of books that I got this summer that are calling my name for winter: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.
Naturally a book and blanket are more enjoyable with a mug of something hot. Keep reading to learn about hygge drinks in point #4.
Tip: Invest in a high quality blanket. If it’s soft and warm, you’re more likely to curl up with it. Likewise, invest in books that are interesting to you. Find one that you can’t seem to put down.
Hygge #4: Hot Drinks and Specialty Foods
Pull out all of your favorite mugs, restock your tea cabinet, and purchase an extra bag of delicious coffee. Because hot drinks are an essential part of hygge.
So are specialty foods. Make a fancy dessert like tiramisu. Attempt to bake homemade bread. Why not feast on a meal as elaborate as Thanksgiving…just because!
In our house, we like to do international date nights. This means that we cook a dinner and bake a dessert typical of another country. During the meal we learn facts about the culture plus a few words from that language. This winter we will incorporate hot drinks and specialty foods from across the globe. Our first stop is Germany, with German sausage and spaetzle for dinner, and hot gluhwein with dessert.
Tip: It’s doubly hygge to make these foods and drinks with friends!
Hygge #5: Friends and Family
Cold weather and dark days make me a hermit. I don’t want to layer up and head outdoors. I want to stay home in my pajamas and read a book by myself.
I want those things, but I also know that isolation isn’t healthy! To fight that tendency, I have begun to intentionally schedule time with family and friends at least twice a week. Once during the week, and at least once on the weekend.
Not only are people good company, but they brighten up the mood and are the perfect companions for your hygge food and drinks!
Hygge #6: Long walks
Speaking of not wanting to go outside during the cold weather, I need some vitamin D! So I’ve declared that one of my weekly workouts will be a walk outside. I own fantastic athletic clothes for cold weather, so that’s not an excuse. I remind myself that I need vitamin D from the sunshine during the winter, and the fresh air is refreshing to my lungs.
Tip: Don’t have the right clothing? Catch everything on sale at the end of winter. Until then, see if you can borrow some long underwear or wool under layers.
Get your hygge on!
What are you waiting for? It’s time to get your hygge on! You can start today and perfect the art through the remaining cold-weather months.
Jana has called Murfreesboro, Tennessee home for the last 16 years…except for the 18 months she spent traveling across Europe with her husband by her side and a carry-on sized backpack on her back. After visiting 22 countries and spending a significant amount of time in Rome, Italy, she returned to good ol’ Tennessee. You can learn more about Jana at www.JanaAplin.blogspot.com