There is no denying that the days are getting shorter and the temperature is dropping. No amount of pumpkin spice can change that. While I welcome this shift, I know the brisk mornings may soon have me reaching for the snooze button and longing for 5 more minutes under the cozy covers.
Melatonin, the hormone controlling how sleepy we feel, is linked to light. Shorter days equal less sunlight and our bodies make more melatonin, which can make us want to hibernate. That’s fine if you are a bear or a paleolithic human whose calendar is clear except for hunting and gathering. For the rest of us, we must find a way to honor the normal biological drive to curl up in our caves and still keep up with the demands of a modern life.
My decidedly unscientific research (aka asking everyone I know) tells me that many folks had never heard of this hallmark of Danish culture. Although it is possible that, had I been pronouncing it correctly, “hoo-guh” not “hi-gee,” more of them may have recognized it. The Oxford Dictionary says hygge is associated with a quality of coziness that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. A quality of coziness that makes a person feel content and comfortable.
According to Alex of hyggehouse.com, “Hygee in its simplest form is really about being present.” This concept can help us embrace the desire to tuck into ourselves as the seasons change and still stay connected to our real lives. So, how do we get it?
Hygge is not an excuse to curl up on the couch and wait out the weather. The Scandinavia maxim tells us, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” No matter what’s happening outdoors there is value in time spent in nature. It’s refreshing, restorative and offers perspective, particularly when shared with family and neighbors. Exercise lifts our moods, improves digestion and boosts energy levels. Getting outdoors amps Vitamin D which can regulate our mood, build muscle and bone and improve immune function. I’m not suggesting we must run marathons in blizzards, only that a bit of fresh air during which we pay attention to our surroundings can help clear our heads and settle our souls.
Enjoy every bite
What do you like to eat or drink after a day in the snow? What were your favorite foods as a child? Hygge food can be sentimental, and definitely includes your great-grandma’s recipes. Hygge is sometimes about reaching for that piece of homemade cake and enjoying every last bite. It’s about cooking our own food – nothing too complicated or fussy – fresh grilled salmon, whole grains, a big bowl of hearty soup. With hygge, food becomes a cherished ritual. Chew slowly and enjoy every bite. This approach to eating inspires us to eat quality, whole foods. When we do, we are going to get much more pleasure from it, and we are going to need much less of it to feel full and satisfied.
Calm your mind and your thumb.
Somewhere along the line, we decided we should all aspire to busy-ness above all else. Our nervous system needs us to press pause. Our brains and our bodies need to rest. Hygge demands that our rest time be actually restful. I’m not saying there is zero room for mindless scrolling. Occasionally, swap our iPhone for a great book. It’s not that we can’t be entertained, but hygge is being intentional about relaxation. Put on a movie and with our phone in the other room. We may be able to breathe better and commit ourselves to the moment. And yes, our thumb gets a break.
Hygge your environment
A good place to start is by paying attention to what moves our senses. A candle that makes you pause and breathe deep. A playlist you never mind looping. Our favorite chair. Hygge is not about what everyone else finds comforting or attractive. Sometimes hygge lives in something silly that makes you laugh, a photo of a moment you cherish, or that favorite pair of pants you wear only in front of family – things that remind you the space you occupy is valuable and safe and delightful.
So as you find yourself longing for comfort this fall, listen to that intuition. Let the inevitable seasonal shift help you create your own sense of hygge that can inform your wellness practice all year long.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness, the original online wellness mentoring system. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant, and that it is only possible to do our best work in the world if we make a daily commitment to our health. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.