In the midst of a pandemic, looking to Denmark (consistently rated among the happiest countries on Earth) for tips on wellbeing seems like a no-brainer. Let’s face it – we could all use more happiness these days. Hygge, the Danish word for a feeling of cozy connectedness, has spawned a craze in the United States in recent years for its promise of greater happiness. But hygge is not a lifestyle or a philosophy so much as an emotion of belonging and comfort evoked by one’s surroundings and relationships. These emotions are common to all of us, and are possible (and so important) to cultivate in our current circumstances. Here are five ways to bring more “cozy connection” into your life – even in the midst of an isolating pandemic.
See your home as a refuge.
You may have gravitated toward the more hyggeligt (or cozy) things in life already, upon finding yourself housebound. Knit throw blankets, a favorite mug to hold your coffee or tea, and warm flannel sheets on the bed can make your home feel like the safe harbor you need in an uncertain time. Surround yourself with soft fabrics, green houseplants, and lots of natural light. Open the curtains and let in the sun, light your favorite candles or fireplace, or curl up with a good book under the warm glow of an accent lamp at night to bring literal and figurative warmth to your home. Going stir crazy? Give your house a deep clean so it feels like a place you want to be. Reorganizing your home often has the added benefit of changing your perspective on the space, as well as unearthing roughly a million half-finished projects to keep you busy. But above all, it reconnects you with the treasures of your past – in the form of belongings you love – that help you feel secure and centered, and remind you that you’re not stuck at home, you’re safe at home.
Gather your favorite things.
Now is the time to go through the boxes of pictures we all have and display your favorites. Buy frames online and start enjoying the photos now by putting them up on the refrigerator, or against the fireplace mantle, until the frames arrive. (Come on, Prime!) The point is to surround yourself with the people and things you love, even if you cannot physically embrace them at the moment. You don’t have to limit yourself to pictures, either. Serve dinner on the china you inherited from mom, even if it’s just mac and cheese – again. Curl up for another night of Netflix in the blanket your grandma knit you. It will make you feel that warm sense of connectedness to the people who matter most in your life. That’s the very definition of hygge.
Feelings of hygge are closely related to our connection with the natural world. Depending on your area, it might not be safe to hike, go to the beach, or take advantage of the natural wonders around you right now. But even if your only current access to the great outdoors is your yard, patio, or balcony, make use of it. Drink your morning coffee or tea outside. Start a small vegetable garden. Soak up the sunshine on your skin. Yell greetings over the fence to a neighbor. Grill your dinner on the barbeque. Anything to spend a little time safely in contact with the world outside your four walls.
Let the outdoors in.
Much of the country is enjoying a beautiful spring at the moment, so if your allergies allow it, throw open those windows and let the warm breeze and sunshine cleanse your space. Wash your bed linens and hang them out to dry in the yard. Pick some flowers while you’re out there and arrange them in a pretty vase or a jam jar – whatever is handy – to decorate your bedside or kitchen table. Keep cuttings from vegetables and regrow them on your windowsill. All of these are ways to get yourself closer to nature and bring a little of that living energy into your space, even during a pandemic.
Bringing others into a sense of connection during this time of isolation is a surefire way to feel more hygge yourself. Get your friends or family together for a zoom date and have a virtual shared meal. Call the people you love regularly to hear their voices and assure them (and yourself) that we’re all in this together. Are you close to a neighbor? Bake cookies with the kids (a very hyggeligt activity) and leave them as a surprise on their doorstep with an encouraging note. Put bottles of water and a “thank you” sign out for the delivery drivers who are bringing all those wonderful picture frames to your door. Provide them with a moment of hygge connectedness in a busy, yet isolating, workday. Like any kindness, it affects the giver as much as the recipient.
Remember that connectedness doesn’t mean being constantly perusing social media. Studies have found that spending too much time looking at other people’s curated selves on social media leads to depression and feelings of isolation, which is the last thing any of us needs right now. Give yourself a little grace. You have permission to stop comparing yourself to Susan, who seamlessly adopted a Montessori-based curriculum for her kids the first day of quarantine. Seek out real screen-to-screen communication with your closest crew, but don’t make your home on Instagram or Twitter all day.
This enforced time at home is the perfect opportunity to slow down and learn to appreciate the moments and relationships that make our lives worth living. Our world right now is filled with anxieties and confusion. Cultivating moments of hygge in our day helps us to balance ourselves; to respond to life’s problems with the security and connectedness of the naturally happy Danish. What a gift to give ourselves in this time of uncertainty.
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