Have you heard of the word Hygge? It is a Danish word that loosely means to get cozy and embrace the cold weather.
If you struggle with seasonal affective disorder like us, hygge is a great approach. It is easy to forget how hard SAD can hit us. Fall turns into winter so quickly and when daylight savings time ends, we can plummet into depression. If you feel dread you aren’t alone. Keep reading to learn a new approach for how to deal with the winter blues.
First comes planning fall activities and participating in spooky season- throwing on a comfy sweater and watching Halloween for the millionth time. Then come the holidays- decorations light up dark evenings, and Netflix releases an onslaught of corny movies with actors from our childhood falling in love. The promise of newness and a clean slate soon stares us down as we ring in the New Year.
But then… it’s just darkness. Cold and dreary days with dirty snow-lined streets, no longer filled with the magic of holiday spirit. It is only the first few weeks of fall, and I’m already dreading these long winter days.
If you are like us and have tried every trick in the book, it may be time to try something new.
Due to the months of darkness in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, Scandinavians are experts at making winter less miserable. They’ve decided to lean into the darkness and cold and find comfort in the little things that bring joy. I’ve been reading more about this practice called hygge. The Danish concept, pronounced hoo-guh, has no direct translation to English, but its closest descriptor would be “cozy.”
Imagine a cabin off the grid lit with fairy lights and candles, giving a soft, warm glow. In the corner is a mountain of blankets and pillows to snuggle up and watch a movie in. There’s warm bread in the oven and a fire crackling while you’re wrapped in your favorite sweater and slippers. I’m often reminded of how Taylor Swift’s album Folklore made me feel when it first came out. During the dark days of winter 2020, we’d light candles and take steaming hot showers in the dark while listening to the soft, relatable music that warmed my heart.
As therapists, a great deal of the work we do is helping people learn to experience the present moment. While staying present can be really scary and anxiety-inducing, it’s also where the magic happens. Being present is how we experience joy and pleasure. Pleasure in the food we are eating, the company we are keeping, and the memories we are making. Hygge is more of a feeling than a word. It’s about the experience, getting lost in the moment, and being content by experiencing simplicity with intentional interaction and gratitude.
So this year, try not to resist the season. Along with continuing the usual recommendations try to lean into the comfy, cozy attitude of hygge. It will be all fuzzy socks and blankets, moisturizers, mugs of tea, warm lights, feel-good books, TV, and comfort food.
Just like the Earth, our bodies have seasons. This winter, if your body tells me it’s time to slow down or say no and stay inside, stop beating myself up for not being able to “beat” the darkness. Go light a candle, listen to some TSwift, throw a flannel on, and re-watch your favorite comfort show.
I hope you’ll join us! Check out the following book recommendations to learn more how to embrace the season and combat seasonal affective disorder.
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
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