“Cold nights, old friends, cozy under warm blankets, hot chocolate and big socks.”
©Wanda St. Hilaire
One would think that a girl raised on the Saskatchewan prairies, a girl who was a school patrol in -40 temperatures, would take winter with a grain of salt. But each year as the season approaches, a sense of deep dread descends. I have visions of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and his endless winter looking for Punxsutawney Phil and I see a bleak, long hell. (I just checked the overall forecast for this winter in Alberta and it’s not pretty.)
In the research of my soon-to-be-released book on cancer, I discovered a wonderful thing—hygge. It is a Danish way of life conducive to creating a nest of contentment. Hygge lessens the feeling of dragging our sorry asses in thinly veiled tolerance through another winter and is a “Nordically” clever way to inject a little joy into the mundane and monotonous.
What’s hygge? This is an excerpt from a chapter I called Morale Boosting: Think Outside the Bun:
Denmark is rated as one of the happiest countries in the world. The Danes have a cultural term called hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’), which is a part of the happiness factor, in spite of long, cold winters with short days. The word is imbued with coziness and simple pleasure. It is derived from a Norwegian word meaning wellbeing. Hygge is an abstract concept with broad meaning; one that translator ToveMaren Stakkestad said was never meant to be translated, but rather to be felt.
Hygge appears to be the art of creating a well-lived life. It is deep contentment found through a sense of togetherness and belonging. It’s camaraderie; sharing hearty meals with friends or lingering around a fireplace with mulled cider. It’s crafting a relaxing atmosphere with candlelight, charm, and beauty.
In solitude, it’s rituals like reading snuggled under a thick duvet with a hot tea and writing in a gratitude journal over a latte. It’s indulging in cozy PJs and slippers. It’s building a sanctuary of serenity and being kind to yourself.
Hygge is an attitude based on the idea of overall wellness—weaving spirit into the daily grind and making the ordinary enchanted. It is something we would be well served by to borrow from the Danes.
The reason I added a small piece on hygge in my book is because we all need a whole lot more slow living infused with sensual delight, especially in regard to our health and wellbeing. We need less chaos, more charm. We need to learn how to stay sane in an insane world and it’s the small, everyday things that add up to a modicum of grace and civility.
Hygge is conscious living, being present and celebrating what is, here and now. We in North America are bombarded with the need for massive goals—for being a superstar in some right, and never feeling like we are enough. From my research, it appears that one of the reasons the Danes are amongst the most content on Earth is because of their knowing that whatever they are, whomever they are, however they live, they are enough, and it is enough. They are content to revel in the ordinary.
Here are a few things you can do to create a hygge winter life (and lessen any S.A.D.):
- Invest in a set of dishes not for functionality, but for fabulousness—dishes that make you feel good when you eat from them
- Make rich stews and winter fare and set a cozy table for friends
- Find spots with big fireplaces to sit at and enjoy a hot bevvie
- Handwrite in a spectacular journal with a good fountain pen
- Make or go for lingering brunches in hygge-type cafés
- Find cozy cafes and quaint bars to visit with friends
- Make a festive indoor winter picnic on the floor
- Downhill ski and hang out in gorgeous lodges
- De-clutter for minimalistic beauty
- Have a PJ party with friends
- Have a fondue (flashback 80s!)
- Go to or host games nights
- Walk a dog through a forest
- Create new traditions
- Cross-country ski
- Go to the Edelweiss Café and Shop (full-out hygge!)
- Take a trip out to PaSu Farm for a Sunday afternoon tea or splurge on an eight-course Victorian Christmas Dinner
- Have lunch or dinner at the Danish Club on 11th Ave SW
- Go to Banff. It’s rife with cozy fireplaces, fondues, and quaintness
- Visit the Banff Hot Springs and then go for hot drinks afterward at the picturesque Banff Springs Hotel
- Stay a weekend at Emerald Lake Lodge (super luxurious hygge)
- Good wine and gorgeous glasses
- Fresh cut flowers in a nice vase
- Stock of fine chocolate
- Premium teas (I just added to my stock of hygge tea and to my surprise, found a President’s Choice Chocolatey Chai tea that’s inexpensive and delicious)
- A few really beautiful objets d’art that you love (to look at when a storm is threatening to cut off your oxygen!)
- Real hot chocolate (think: movie Chocolat) and cinnamon sticks
- A set of pretty mugs and a nice teapot
- A beautiful blanket for curling up on the couch
- New robe or PJs and hand-knit slippers
- A stock of quality candles
With Christmas knocking on our doorstep, now is the perfect time to inject a little Denmark into our lives. It is the ideal time for adding new soul-inspiring rituals and decking the halls with boughs of natural beauty and meaningful little items.
Apparently, hygge is the absence of anything annoying. That’s snow to me and if I had my druthers, I’d book a six-month flight outta Dodge. Until then, I think it would serve me (and you) well to get hygge with it and embrace the Danish custom of living a life well lived, snow or no snow.
(And remember to take your vitamin D every day)
Post © Wanda St.Hilaire
Coming in 2017 …
What To Do After “I’m sorry, it’s cancer.”
An Exceptional Guidebook for Navigating Your Way to Health and Happiness