Corey Vanderwouw: Be well with hygge
The challenges and isolation of the pandemic are still among us. With winter upon us and the COVID numbers continuing to rise, most of us will likely spend even more time within the confines of our homes. With longer hours of darkness, the cold, and the rain, right now is the perfect time to bring hygge into our lives.
Hygge (pronounced softly in the back of the throat as ‘hoo-gah’) was cultivated in Denmark and its traditions extend north up through Norway. With loads of snow, the average Danish winter temperature is just above freezing. The longest night of the year is dark for 17 hours. These long-lasting extreme conditions led to the creation of hygge for a healthy survival through these difficult winters.
Hygge is a lifestyle that is practiced by cultivating feelings of comfort, shelter, warmth and connection. Things that help to create this experience often include a de-cluttered, minimalistic space, a fire in a fireplace or candles, warm blankets, woolen socks, a comfortable set of clothes, and cozy chairs. There is even a tradition that has evolved from hygge, called huggerkrog, in which a special relaxation nook is created in the home.
Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute of Copenhagen and the author of “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living,” says that hygge “is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
The experience of hygge comes from sinking into the cozy environment and feeling its warmth, security, harmony, and often togetherness that comes by sharing this experience with loved ones. People enjoy the atmosphere and each other with warm drinks, snacks, and games. Hygge is such a comforting experience that it is one of the reasons that the Danish are considered some of the happiest people in the world.
You can definitely incorporate the hygge way of life into your own. To start figuring out your ideal atmosphere, imagine yourself basking in warm light, feeling safe and warm from the rain outside. Happiness radiates from you and to you as you visit with your beloved, sharing food and drinks. What specifically is there with you in your picture? After identifying what would make your space right for you, you can create your environment to your personal taste and use what inspires hygge for you and your family. Choose your favorite comforts to create a calm and relaxing environment. Remember to be present in your experience and enjoy each thing you have chosen.
Other things that can bring the feeling of hygge include being present while taking a warm bath, enjoying nature, reading, using the method of mindfulness, and de-cluttering your home to create a relaxing atmosphere. There are many choices in hygge and you can make it your own. To all in our community, be well this winter and I wish you all the comforts of hygge.
Corey Vanderwouw has been a physical therapist for 20 years and has a special interest in wellness. She co-owns Fit for Life physical therapy in Grass Valley with her partners Ingo Zirpins and Margaret Matthews.
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