Beating the Winter Blues with Hygge

I hate snow.  I hate being cold.  And until this year, I hated January.  After the festivities, spirit, lights, food, and celebrations of December, January feels like you’ve just been dumped when you thought the relationship was going pretty well.  All the happy, cozy feelings and good times get abruptly replaced by cold, snow, and dark.  So what changed my mind and my experience this year?  Hygge!

What on Earth is Hygge?

Hygge is a popular trend right now that I actually learned about through Pinterest!  As I’ve learned about hygge in recent weeks, I’ve found that the most consistent definition of hygge is that it can’t really be defined.  Here, though, is what I learned:

Hygge is pronounced “hue-guh” and is a feeling or concept.  It comes from a Danish word meaning “well-being.”  It may also come from an Old Norse term, hygga, which means “to comfort” and from an older word, hugr, meaning “mood.”  These words, too, may be related to “hug.”  Even as the logophile I am, I find it best to not try to define hygge, but to feel it.

The mood or feeling of hygge is a Danish and generally Scandinavian tradition of coziness of the soul, signified by comfort, warmth, togetherness, softness, simplicity, and contentment.  It is manifest in lights, candles, warm drinks, delightful food (and comfort food), good books, fireplaces, enjoying family and friends, and bringing nature inside.

I like to imagine that this feels like a great idea to me because of my Danish (and Swedish) heritage, but I’m confident it’s more simple than that.  As a pretty solid introvert, my first reaction to this was, “Oh, I can totally hygge–all winter long.”  It’s more than just cozying up with a good book under a fuzzy blanket with a cup of hot chocolate, though.  Hygge includes togetherness.  It’s that feeling I get when I’ve got cousins and aunts and uncles filling my house with conversation and laughter.  So as much as hygge invites cozy time for yourself, it also means relaxing with family and friends, enjoying and appreciating the warmth of connections and relationships.

My Experience with Seasonal Depression

From the age of 4, I grew up in Utah.  I essentially left the state after college.  That was enough to know I knew I hated snow and being cold.  After college, though, I stopped having “traditional” cold, snow-filled winters.  I lived in San Diego for almost a year as a missionary for my church, with a summer in Indiana and Florida for the same purpose.  After I got married, we lived in the Bay Area (CA) for almost a year while my husband attended graduate school at Stanford.  We then moved to a lovely town in Southwest Washington with very mild winters.  Snow every other year for 24 hours was just right for me!

I’ve always been a fan of holidays and celebrations.  I put up seasonal decorations around my house every month, many of which I make myself.  Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or Independence Day, it puts me in a festive and celebratory mood.  I really enjoy it.   Back when I lived in no-snow areas, January became a snowman theme.  I decorated with snowmen, snowflakes, and such.  Snow was fun because it was rare.

And then I moved to western New York.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Winters there are not for the faint of heart.  I began to call it Narnia, and there was never a more apt description.  The months and months on end of cloud cover, endless dumpings of deep snow, monochrome days, and humid cold that no amount of layers could relieve began to crush me.  It was the first time I really understood what depression was and how it could truly be caused by simply what’s outside.

Our Natural Rhythm

Now that I live in one of the sunniest cities in the country (though it still snows and gets cold here sometimes), I can see with clearer eyes how many of us are tied to our environments.  There are people, of course, who aren’t as sensitive to such things.  My husband, for example, could live in a cave or on a tropical beach and pretty much feel the same day to day.  But there is something very real about the seasons and our natural state of being at different times of the year.

Dina Tibbs says that most things our society generally does in January is unnatural.  Winter is naturally a time of peaceful solitude.  The world is resting, asleep.  She suggests that the sudden changes of New Year’s Resolutions goes against our natures which are still quiet because of the season.  She actually waits until spring to make resolutions, choose a word for the year, and set goals and intentions.  January to her is a peaceful time to be still.  It’s her time to fill her own cup.

This idea really speaks to me.  I’ve always hated New Year’s resolutions because it really does seem unnatural to me to all of a sudden make drastic changes during a time when I really just want to sleep more, wear fuzzy socks, and always have something warm to drink.  No wonder!

And This is Why I’ll Hygge

So using hygge as a verb may or may not be correct, but you get the idea.  Going into January this year, I decided to throw out my old seasonal home decor as well as my focus.  (Why would I decorate with snowmen?!  I hate snow.)  I noticed this past December how much I love lights and candles.  They make me feel different.  They make me feel cozy and warm and comfortable.  I think that means they make me feel hygge.

I’ll tell you about the changes I made this month so you can get some ideas for what you might like for beating the winter blues.  Although not explicit, from what I can tell, hygge also seems to be a focus on self-care.  Isn’t that what well-being is?

  • I bought some scented candles from my favorite company because they smell delicious and cozy.  My favorite scents this time of year are pomegranate and cranberry orange.
  • I have spread greenery around my house.  I really love seeing something GREEN and LIVING every day, and that’s especially true in winter.  I have a brown thumb, but many stores sell forced bulbs like hyacinths or potted ones like tulips this time of year.  Many tropical plants like majesty palms make great house plants.
  • I found some flameless candles on a timer!  I have spread these around my house as well.  When the sun goes down, the warm flicker comes on and gives a cozy, warm feel to my home.
  • I pulled out cozy slippers and socks, have fuzzy blankets around, and soft throw rugs as well.  While these items can be used practically for warmth and comfort, the look and style of them speak “cozy,” too.
  • I do not feel guilty for enjoying hot chocolate every day.  It’s hygge, and it makes me happy.
  • I focus on simplicity by not making major changes right now and just being still.  I do have a word for the year, but it’s something I can keep in mind constantly, applying as needed.  My focus instead is on well-being and enjoying life.  I have blocked out a couple of full days in January marked simply “hygge.”  Maybe they’ll be reading, maybe they’ll be napping, maybe they’ll be preparing dinner for a casual gathering in my home.  Whatever they are will be about contentment and warmth.

I think one of my favorite things about hygge is that there isn’t a recipe, there aren’t rules.  Whatever speaks to me about hygge is probably what I need most.  Your hygge may look different than my hygge.  I love (which means I probably need) the focus on comfort and peace and warmth and coziness.  I think I may have just beat the winter blues once and for all!

What would hygge look like to you?


References

  1. Dina Tibbs. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.dinatibbs.com/
  2. Fisher, Donna. (2018). Gold Canyon. Retrieved from https://donnafisher.mygc.com/
  3. Mormon Newsroom. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/topic/missionary-program
  4. Palo, Krista. (2018). Evolve. Retrieved from https://www.livegrowgive.org/whats-your-one-word/
  5. Wikipedia. (2018). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygge
  6. Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Facebook. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/MyHeritageMakersShop/

Jennifer Wise

I'm Jennifer, and I'm passionate about connections.I enjoy helping people discover the very real benefits of preserving stories, photos, and memories because of the impact they have on children, families, and individuals. I blog weekly at www.lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com sharing tips, ideas, solutions, and inspiration, and I'm over at www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise, too. Learn more about me at the "About" tab.

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7 thoughts on “Beating the Winter Blues with Hygge

  1. I love this idea of hygge so much! It does seem quite unnatural to make resolutions when it’s so cold and dreary out. Spring brings about the feeling of new life! I totally agree with resolutions being set at that time of year instead.

    Also, hot chocolate has no limits! My kids ask for it every single day. It’s irresistible!

  2. Such a great article Jennifer! The academic in me now wonders if this is a reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. It would be a much better time to start when the world is coming out of hibernation and starting to bloom! I love Christmas time and the holiday’s but they really are a very busy time, I love the idea of taking some time to recharge your batteries, practice some self-love and prepare yourself for being amazing in the coming year!

    My word this year is create and this concept of hygge is totally in alignment. I want to create an environment where I can thrive!

    • Thanks, Krista. I had the same thought–I wonder if this is why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. We’re not ready to make big changes. Same here–I LOVE Christmastime, and from Thanksgiving to New Year’s there’s just so much excitement and busy-ness that it seems like it would be more normal to just spend January recuperating in some quiet time. I love your thoughts. Totally agree. Great word of the year, too–create can be applied to so many things, including your environment!

  3. Some may view life as a trial to endure and therefore winter and darkness as “extra trial.” They may think we’re supposed to suffer through things, not to find ways to be happy and comfortable. So we must first convince ourselves that it’s not sinful to be happy and comfortable, that it’s not wrong to have candles and gather around hot chocolate. (Sugarless, of course….) We may blame Puritan ancestors for a grit-the-teeth philosophy, but we have only ourselves to blame if we don’t change it.