Let’s be honest, January is one of the worst months of the year. The joy and rush of the holidays is gone and we’re left acutely aware of how cold, dark and dreary the days are. I can’t be the only one who feels like everything is harder in the winter! To top that, vacations end and it’s back to work/school. Overall, January feels like a sucker punch of reality after getting lost in holiday spirit and relaxation. In most places there’s still a few months left of winter to power through. The key to getting through these months is simply to change your mindset to embrace and even enjoy winter. I know, I know, it seems impossible, but this is where hygge comes in.

Hygge is the Danish term that you’ve definitely heard before. The word can be loosely translated to an atmosphere of warm content and an enjoyment of the simple things in life. It’s been all the rage in home living magazines and websites for the past two years, to the point of becoming a superficial trend, but one shouldn’t dismiss hygge so easily. Famously heralded as the reason why Danes are some of the most happy people in the world, hygge has many benefits, however it’s much more personal than buying some extra blankets and candles.

To really implement hygge into your life, you need to understand what it is. Hygge is not an interior design style, it is a mindset and an atmosphere you must create for yourself. The concept of hygge rests on these four pillars: kinship, nature, simplicity and coziness. 

Hygge is a time for personal well being and comfort, however spending time with family and friends is also a crucial part of it. Constantly being on your phone or computer is not hygge at all, so try meeting up with friends or family in person. Have a meal with them, go get coffee or relax at someone’s house and just talk. The holidays are always about connecting with family, but you don’t need to stop once December is over. Continue to reach out and build connections, as hygge is all about appreciating those bonds you have with people. After all, it’ll make winter a lot less lonely!

In the throes of winter, with snow, slush and a vicious wind chill, it seems incredibly tempting to stay inside and try to ignore the weather around you. However, trying to appreciate wintertime will certainly make it better.  Yes, the weather is a hassle, however anyone can appreciate the beauty in snow falling, or how quiet and peaceful winter days are. A forest can become a winter wonderland and the vicious wind can become a cleansing breathe of air. One simply needs to go outside and appreciate nature. Hygge loves going outside on a nice walk just as much as it loves curling up by a fireplace. A common saying in Denmark is that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. Find some warm and thick sweaters, a nice set of hat and mitts, and bundle yourself up. If you’re trying to stay trendy, then layering will become your best friend, as you can mix and match patterns or colors to create a functional look that stands out. Any sort of outdoor exercise is also a great choice. Danes love biking everywhere, as it is a healthier option to driving. In places such as Canada, it is near impossible to bike with all the snow, however picking up a sport such as skating, skiing, or even snowshoeing will raise your dopamine levels (thus making you happier) and force you to spend some quality time outside.

The main philosophy of hygge is to appreciate simple, basic things in life. It is so easy to get caught up in over- indulgence and materialistic goods, but nothing good comes out of that. If one goes their entire life ignoring simple wonders they have, then they’ll never be satisfied. Hygge implores you to simplify your life, and prioritize the important things. This is an incredibly valuable lesson in today’s society and it fits perfectly in winter, a season of scarcity for many. For example, find more enjoyment in drinking your morning coffee. Don’t just chug it down for fuel, savor the taste! If you want to get really hygge, sit by the window and watch the snow fall, or read a book. Simply enjoy and be at peace. We don’t need extravagant events or expensive things to enjoy life. Allow yourself to indulge a bit of course, as hygge is not a strict practice, but be careful not to go into excess.

Finally, the most popular part of hygge is the cozy atmosphere. This is something that you create in whatever way you really want, but essentials include: throw blankets, candles, warm drinks, comfort food, and good books. Activities that help implement hygge is reading, some form of crafting (ex. knitting, diying, crocheting) or writing. Putting on some nice relaxing music and clothes can definitely contribute to this. You can tailor your cozy atmosphere to your tastes, but it’s important to not go crazy. Hygge is not something you can materialistically buy into. It’s a perspective, a way of viewing and experiencing life. If you don’t embrace the philosophy of hygge, no amount of throw blankets will change your life. Slow down, appreciate things, and allow warmth and connection into your life. Winter is miserable and dreary, but like everything, there is beauty in it. Hygge is all about finding that beauty; about wholesome things and nourishment. Start small this January, and soon you will find yourself excited to embrace winter in the coming months.

Visit Denmark offers a test to see how hygge you already are, and then offers you a plan to help bring more hygge into your life.

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