Winter is coming! And this year I’m going to hygge – a lot!!

What, you may ask, is “hygge”?  I’m really excited to share with you all I’ve discovered about it and why I think hygge may be exactly what I need to get me through the next few months. But first, let me tell you what brought me to it.

I’ve “hinted” in previous posts that lately I’ve been feeling unsettled. As summer wanes and autumn’s personality becomes obvious, for some reason, my anxiety grows. This is unusual for me. I typically look forward to seasons changing. And October has always been a favorite month.  But this year, the transition has left me anxious. It feels as if a lot has to happen to bring me back to a place of relative peace and harmony. And I have so little control over making that happen. Even my self-talking isn’t working.

So I decided that maybe some more aggressive self-care was in order. Begin small, I thought, with things close to me, things I can control. I began thinking of what makes me feel good, what typically lifts my spirits – being cozy and comfortable, familiar cooking or garden smells, family, books, a crackling fireplace. And that’s how I found hygge.

A little history: Pronounced “HOO-guh”, hygge stems from the Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort, console”.  “Cozy” would be a close English translation. It can be a noun, verb, or adjective. The practice has firm roots in Denmark and refers to a lifestyle that embraces relaxation, simple indulgences, and gratitude for simple pleasure. Faced with long, cold dark winters, the Danes sought out ways to control the potential depression the season would inevitably bring. They filled their homes, albeit, their lives, with warmth, coziness, and comfort.

So, with that brief intro, you can see where I’m going???

It appears that the Danes have perfected this concept and it is beginning to catch on here in the US. A search on Amazon turned up books (fiction and non), party and word games, yarns, and on and on. A whole relaxation industry out there waiting to be tapped into!

While I am truly turned off by most self-help trends, I don’t put hygge in that category. Rather than suggesting major lifestyle changes, some requiring on-going time commitments (ugh- more stress!) and substantial financial investment – de-cluttering, dieting, gym memberships, dance classes, etc.,  the hygge regime suggests we focus on what we already have – the familiar, the comfortable, the simple – sinking into them deeply, appreciating all they give us, as they bring comfort and harmony into our lives.

Isn’t this just what I’m looking for? The timing of this discovery is perfect, too. As the cooler weather drives us even further indoors than the pandemic already has, at-home time will become even more plentiful.

So, as I face my personal uneasiness brought on by the pandemic and current political events, I know the latest diet fad isn’t going to relieve the stress. But… a good book, candlelight, the warmth of a fireplace, wooly socks, cider, tea, comfy sweats, a pot of chili simmering on the stove, a good movie, sharing popcorn with loved ones…all these will center me and remind me of what is truly important.  That’s what Hygge is all about.

Being retired, hygge is easy for me. I think it is less accessible to my kids as they hold down jobs, juggle the complicated learning schedules of their families – there’s little “down” time. But I’m hoping that maybe they, too, can find some hygge moments each week. And I’m thinking, these times here in our country, in this beautiful country of ours, are the perfect times for us to look seriously into being more HYGGE.

Here’re some suggestions to get you started on “hygge-ing”:

Hygge-esque Reading:  Curl up under a warm blanket in front of a fire with one of these:

Waiting for the Moon – Kristin Hannah

The Center of the World – Katherine Sheehan

And for a true Autumn tale – The Simplicity of Cider – Amy Reichert

Some favorite easy Fall Recipes:

Apple Cider Glazed Chicken

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cider Vinaigrette 

Cheddar and Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Ribollita Soup

Pumpkin Risotto

Ginger and Cream Sandwich Cookies

Since Hygge is a Danish phenomenon, here are three suggestions for Netflix bingeing while sitting in front of that fire, all enjoyable Danish productions.

Borgen, Rita, A Fortunate Man

And finally, if you want to hear from actual Danes about how they hygge, click here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Is your home a hygge home? Are you thinking of trying it? Let’s hear from you.