Hygge [hew-guh] to Beat the Winter Blues and Improve Mental Health: The Danes Know What They’re Doing
As the grip of post-holiday wintertime clamps down on North America, it’s all too common to allow the shorter days, frigid temperatures and stress of getting back to work push us into isolation, both physically and mentally.
In Denmark, where the average temperature in January is about 28 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees in February, Danes developed a philosophical approach to beat the winter blues – Hygge.
Pronounced hew-guh, a loose translation is “warm and cozy” or “wellbeing,” but hygge is actually more than just that. It’s a life philosophy, a state of mind and a way to practice happiness and positivity.
“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience. It’s about being with people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe,” writes Meik Wiking, author of the New York Times bestselling The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.
One of the best aspects of the philosophy is that anyone can hygge-fy their life to a lesser or greater degrees, depending on their personal preference.
What are Some of the Key Elements of Practicing Hygge?
- Redesign your space for coziness: this might mean pulling grandma’s homemade quilt out of the attic and spreading it across the living room couch with some extra pillows stolen from the bedroom to create a new, comfortable feeling. Do as the Danes do and light candles, scented or not, to give the room a soft, warm, inviting glow. Soft music might play nicely or, better yet, a quiet room where you can hear the rustle of the cold winter wind outside
- Unwind: instead of breaking out the computer, phone or turning Netflix on right away, make some homemade coco to sip on after a relaxing bubble bath. Take the opportunity to read a few chapters of a book that’s been on the reading-list for too long. Then, yes, of course, Netflix binging is also hygge
- Socialize: hygge is also being about being with friends and loved ones. Spend the day draped in warm, comfortable clothes and bake a chocolate cake and invite a few close friends over to enjoy it together
- Stay active: if sun makes an appearance, as it’s inclined to do from time to time in winter, gear up and get outside, maybe take a trip down to see the frozen lake or take brisk walk on the beach or in the park. Hygge isn’t about being afraid of the cold, but embracing the season
Beating The Winter Blues
Though it’s difficult in this day age, avoiding electronics goes a long way in creating a sense of hygge and overall wellbeing.
For some people, wintertime can wreak havoc on serotonin levels in the brain and lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. The blue light in many televisions, smartphones and computers can contribute to this disorder.
If use of electronics is unavoidable, there are a number of apps, like f.lux, that remove the harsh light and make screen staring easier on the eyes and the brain.
Wintertime shouldn’t be a season that we just grin and bear. The same is true about the rest of the seasons and, well, life in general. Go out of the way to make life as hyggelig (hygge-like) as possible.
Don’t forget, Denmark is always ranked one of the happiest places on earth. So, yeah, the Danes know what they’re talking about.
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