Wonderful Winter pt.2: The Magic of “Hygge”

What do hot cocoa, fuzzy blankets, and a fireplace all have in common?  They are elements that can turn a cold, dark winter into something warm, cozy and glittering with light.  They all have the potential to warm one person or to be shared. These tools fall into the realm of what Norwegians call “hygge”. Most closely translated into English as “cozy”, hygge also involves an element of socializing, sharing this time of year with those near and dear.

Since my first visit to Michigan last February, I’ve heard a lot about miserable winters.  The short days, gray skies and frigid air wears on people. Yet ironically, according to the latest “World Happiness Report” created by the United Nations, the five happiest countries on the planet are all north of chilly Michigan.  Topped by Finland and followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands, these are all places where people have created cultures that embrace both the indoors and outdoors during the long, dark winters.  

The movie Frozen showcases perhaps the ultimate hygge hotspot: saunas.  There’s nothing quite like sweating profusely, wearing nothing but your birthday suit as you engage with friends and family in tight quarters-right?  Admittedly, I do enjoy saunas, but I think part of what makes them such a key part of the hygge culture is the element of socialization. Though the weather is cold and the sun shines far less in winter, sharing your days and nights with those you love can make the season “merry and bright.”

So… some ideas for enjoying the great indoors during winter:20200214_161213

BAKE, EAT and ENJOY warm foods and drinks.  Decorate and eat some cookies with a neighbor.  Sip some tea with a colleague.  Each winter I tend to find one or two new soups to make along with the perrenial favorites I can’t help but return to like miso and pizza soup.  Warm up from playing outside with some coffee, cocoa, or the lovely old tradition of wassail.  Bake muffins or bread and be sure to get your first taste while they are still warm.

PLAY, PONDER and READ something new or an old favorite.  While keeping up with current events via news and blogs is valuable (and I have such cozy memories of watching my grandpa read the newspaper in his leather recliner), there is something unique and wonderful about cozying up with a book.  Play games- do you have a favorite board or card game you can introduce to someone new in your life? Maybe you want to contemplate, discuss or even journal about some deep questions pressing on your mind lately.  We all process things a little differently: some better by ourselves, some better through discussion with another. What helps you?

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LAUGH and LOVE!!!  These final ingredients I can’t emphasize enough.  Open your heart to positivity- whether you need a pick me up, someone else around you does, or you are all just working on self-care to stay positive.  Carve out spaces for laughter; it is great medicine. Take care of yourself and share with others- it will help you find greater joy and reason to respect yourself.

A large part of the nordic cultures that are so happy- they value community and care for others as well as themselves.  So as winter drags and starts to feel long, consider some hygge traditions to bring yourself and others a little more light in a dark season of life.  No need to try to save the whole world today. Just try to make a difference for someone.

Simple Ways to Spread Love -S.O. not required

This time of year has always been special to me- whether I was a twitter-pated teen, a lonely “Single-Awareness-Day” celebrator, or deeply in love, Valentine’s Day has always called to me.  In the years of early adulthood, it finally occurred to me that it need not be a time to mourn the freedom of being single or be a day of pressure for men.  I realized, that like childhood when I spent hours creating the most beautiful box and valentines to take to school, it can be a celebration of creativity and sharing kind feelings for anyone in your life (self-included).  So whether you are 15 or 55, single or partnered, here are some ideas to get your creativity going to enjoy a day of love.

 

Bake and Share Cookies      cookies

Have you been meaning to meet your neighbors and haven’t found the right ice-breaker?  Or maybe you have a couple of kids you know would love to be reminded how sweet they are.  Give a plate of treats to someone and just let them know you are thinking of them or want to be their friend.

 

Write a Note of Appreciation

When was the last time you emailed your sister just to tell how awesome she is?  Have you recently told your dad how you appreciate something special he did with you growing up?  Take 5 minutes to send a card, email, or even hand-written letter to someone who has touched your life.

dogwalkingWalk Your Dog

This may sound like an odd one.  However, speaking from experience, for those of us pooch-loving pet owners who sometimes get so busy that by mid-week that we short-change our furry friends with extra short outdoor visits, especially in the middle of winter, this can be great.  Give your pet an extra-long walk to show him or her some love, while gifting yourself with some exercise, fresh air, and if you get out while the sun is still up, a healthy dose of immune-boosting Vitamin D.  

Take Someone a Meal or a Cup of Tea

Do you know anyone who is sick, has a new baby, or is going through a really stressful time at work?  Make an extra portion, grab an extra coffee when you order one, or hand the homeless person on the corner a $5 gift card to a nearby cafe.  

Heart Attack Someone (the paper kind)

paper_heart_attackI remember going out with friends on a few occasions to cut out paper hearts, then tape them all over someone’s door with little notes of how the person was appreciated and loved. Years later, while leaving for work one day, I saw a beautiful display of hearts attached to skewers that sprawled the lawn of my apartment complex.  I was shocked and touched when I curiously went to see who they were for and found my name written on one of the hearts.  Trust me, this one is both fun to create and touching to receive.

There are so many ways to experience and express love.  It may, but doesn’t necessarily need to be romantic.  Just showing love for humanity can be simple AND make someone’s day.  So go ahead and fill someone’s heart with joy -you may notice that a certain “someone” will end up including you!