Hygge is “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” as defined by Oxford dictionary. As we head into the bleakest part of our Canadian winter, the holidays over, and the nest empty again, enlisting some hygge practice should uplift my mood.
Hygge is a word coined by the Danes, who embrace this simple lifestyle. Considering our similar climate, I think it’s worthwhile including some aspects of this lifestyle in our own lives. While visiting Scandinavia last fall, I paid close attention to the people and my surroundings, curious about what makes this region such a desirable place to live. The following list is what I believe to be essential in a healthy well-being.
Increase your Vitamin D
We spent a lot of time outdoors during our travels. If it wasn’t hiking a mountain to get a better view of the fjords in Norway, it was enjoying lunch at an outdoor table (yes even late September!) with sheepskin and blankets to keep us warm in Stockholm. We know that lower vitamin D levels contributes to lower moods during the shorter days of winter. Sitting inside and lamenting about the cold is NOT going to make you happy. Skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and skating are all great pastimes during the winter months. Heck just getting out for a walk will boost your mood. Why do you think our parents bundled us up and sent us outside to play after a snowstorm?!
Create a Happy Home
Scandinavian style is a minimalistic type decor that embraces the “less is more” philosophy. Hygge is not necessarily a bare room with little texture and items to look at, unless this is what makes you happy and comfortable. I believe it is a personal choice and style based on what makes you content. We saw everything from the modern, minimalist decor in our Trondheim hotel, a rustic decor in our cabin in the mountain, to an older hotel filled with antiques and memorabilia in Gamla Stan.
When I first bring out the Christmas decor, the natural elements (pine cones and greenery) and the lights all create a nostalgic feeling that makes me happy. As the winter weather descends upon us, it’s great to curl up in a warm blanket on the couch, (even better after a day on a hiking trail!) and enjoy the lights on the tree. Add in a fragrant smell of baking or simmering potpourri and I’m in heaven.
After the holiday I find it refreshing to put away the nostalgic decor. Natural elements will remain on display until I’m ready for the Spring refresh. Think pinecones, white birch and some greenery. Soft lighting, including candles, will warm up your rooms.
When talking to patients about sleep hygiene, I always mention the bedroom space. We know that a cluttered bedroom can inhibit your sleep, and I believe this can carry through to the rest of the home. When my house is not orderly, I feel a sense of upheaval and find it difficult to relax. Our homes are supposed to be our sanctuary for relaxation.
The people we met on our travels were friendly, and genuinely interested in chatting. They were interested in our story, and wanted to share their own experiences. This is a practiced skill, part of their culture.
After a calendar filled December, it is tempting to want to stay home in January. But nurturing our relationships with family and friends helps us feel a sense of community, and improves well-being.
Why not ask your friends to join you for a hike on a sunday afternoon, or invite them for a night of board games if you’re not an outdoor person. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or planned. A cup of tea with my girlfriends brings back many memories, and is so uplifting.
On our Baltic cruise, we had the opportunity to learn about the Nordic bathing ritual. This practice of circulating between a hot sauna, steam or bath and a cold river or shower is a relaxation technique used by the Scandinavians. We did have the best sleep following this ritual. I’m thinking I can get the same results at our lakeside hot tub by alternating a frolic in a snowbank!
Self Care also embodies the mind, and our ability to let go of things that are not fulfilling us. Yoga and meditation are an excellent way to allow us to relax and be happy in the present moment, no fancy equipment required. Luckily, a regular yoga practice is already part of my being.
Making a happy life does not have to be complicated or require a lot of money. Just try implementing some of these lifestyle practices into your daily life, and see where it takes you……..