These days I wake up to complete darkness. When my work day is over, I try to bask in the last hour or two of light before the sun plays hide and seek until dawn the next day. A decrease of sunlight disrupts the body’s internal clock leading to a drop in serotonin levels (you know, our “happy hormones”) so no wonder I — and most likely millions of other people — am feeling out of the loop. Swedes have it even worse: In January the sun rises a little before 9 am and sets before 3 pm.
If that’s not enough to disturb your circadian rhythm, I don’t know what is. However, Scandinavians have devised a whole system to keep sane and happy during these dark months: they call it Hygge. Although some may say there are no English word equivalents, I think that “cozy” comes in pretty close or “cheerful communal coziness”. The point is that we can all use a little bit of hygge in our lives, especially in the months to come.
a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Pronounced “hoo-guh,”
- Make an autumn and winter reading, watching or listening list
Is there anything more cozy on a rainy or snowy evening than watching a favourite childhood movie, curling up with a good book or listening to a soothing Spotify playlist as the wind rattles and shakes windows and roofs? I don’t believe there is.
- Reach out to your inner circle
We are never too busy to grab a coffee and tartelette with a friend or sibling — even if it means getting up at the crack of dawn to hang out before work or school. Warm winter drinks like apple cider or pumpkin lattes or a large cup of coffee are very hygge. And so is spending time with your inner circle.
- Make it soft, make it cozy
I don’t know about you but one of my instincts when the mornings get cold is to surround myself with things that are plush and fluffy. That usually means taking out my sweaters and scarves — God, do I love scarves — and throws out of storage (I live in a tiny flat), taking a Sunday afternoon to wash and store, and making inventory of what’s missing (can you ever have enough fluffy socks?). A comfy and cozy environment is sure to up the hygge factor as textiles and fabrics infuse depth and warmth into every setting. Wool is a prized fabric and not just because of its softness: dust-mites tend to stay away from it so if you have asthma or allergies, wool clothes and throws may provide respite from discomfort.
- Go outside, no matter the weather
If living in Canada has taught me one thing is that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. If you’re the type of person who’s waiting for a sunny warm day to get busy outside, you will be depressed half the year (and I’m being generous here). Invest in a good coat (preferably one that covers the bum!) and boots as well as a liner and don’t be afraid of the elements! There are always outside activities you can partake in — whether festivals, outdoor concerts or a group run or hiking expedition.
- Unplug, for real.
I recently read that the mere presence of your smartphone reduces brain power. Another research claims that too much screen time in children under 5 “has been found to negatively affect language use and acquisition, attention, cognitive development and executive function”. All in all, even more reason to ditch technology and go back to the basics: you know, occupy your time with activities like playing board games, reading books, going outside, having conversations, like we used to do, back in the day before we digital.
- Cook some soul food
One of my most enduring childhood memories is the ice storm of 1998. We were one of the few houses on the block that had electricity and so my aunt, uncle and two cousins came to stay with us. The schools were closed so we spent our days playing outside in our snowsuits, watching family movies and reading books, all while delicious smells wafted from the kitchen as my mom and aunt cooked Polish delicacies that were quite often followed by pancakes, jam and lots of hot chocolate. All very, very hygge. What made the experience even better was the snow that kept falling and falling.
Q: What are some hygge-like activities that help you fight the fall and winter blues?