Nestled in hygge.
Winter is my favorite season...and just about nobody else's, it would seem. Year after year, I've defended my love of winter - the snow, the cold, the dark, and what to me feels like a coziness that can't be experienced in the same way at any other time of the year (except autumn, my second favorite season). Rarely have I found a kindred spirit on this topic. I always thought maybe I just wasn't explaining it right, that anyone who came and lived with me during the cold months would come to understand what I love about it. The layers of cozy clothes, the wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, abundant excuses to stay inside and do all the things I like best: reading, writing, listening to music or podcasts, knitting, cooking, watching movies, making out. But still people turned their noses up. But this year, I found out, once again, the Scandinavians do everything better than we do and the Danish have figured this coziness thing out.
Let's talk about hygge.
First of all, it's pronounced "hoo-ga" (or something much cooler and Scandinavian than that, which is tough for us Americans to mimic). It's one of those interesting words that doesn't really have a clear English translation, but it's all about the feeling of being cozy and content and happy, and doing whatever works for you to create an environment that makes you feel nestled in goodness and warmth. It's how the Scandinavians get through the dark and cold of winter (and how most popular American home decor companies rake in the cash). Think about all the things we do when it's wintertime that make you feel happy and warm and protected. We light candles and fires and lanterns, we listen to music, we read books, we wear (and sometimes even knit) thick wool socks, we invite friends over to cook meals and play board games and watch movies. We snuggle with our loved ones and our pets. We linger over glasses of wine, cups of tea or a hot toddy. We lounge. We bake. We hibernate.
Hygge is totally my jam.
Once I found out about hygge, I was pretty pleased, as this is something I've been doing my entire life and could probably give seminars in, and it's now a thing that people are talking about and embracing to help them get through the cold months. Up until now, I felt like I was talking to brick walls when I described my love of candlelight and sweatpants, but now I've got the entirety of Pinterest backing me up: WINTER RULES BECAUSE HYGGE.
SO! Without further ado, here are some of my favorite hygge tricks for making the winter the absolute best time of the year.
Turn down the lights.
Lighting is probably one of the most essential things when it comes to making your home hygge-happy. Dim light, I find, as long as it's warm, can really make a person feel safe, like they room around them is a little smaller and the world outside a bit further away. I find it so comforting to create a ball of light around me on a dark night (or day). In fact, this sort of light is so preferable to me that I struggle with depression on the brightest of days - which feels like a pretty intense reaction to me. At any rate, the best way I've found to achieve this is to rely on lamps and candles, and try to avoid overhead lighting. In my bedroom, I use a wall sconce on either side of my bed to keep the room functional but super inviting at night time. In big rooms, like the living room, I turn off all overhead lights and most floor lamps, and restrict myself to table lamps and candles. I recently discovered these Aurora copper string lights from Anthropologie and they're super effective - so warm. And, of course, if you have a fireplace, that's gonna be key to your hygge-approved lighting scheme.
Invest in coziness.
Every year, I make sure that as soon as fall rolls around, I've got what I need for layering up (aka cocooning myself in all the wool) during the cool days ahead. Make sure you've got what you need before it's super cold, so that you can just ease into more and more warmth as needed. I like cotton leggings or yoga pants or light-weight sweats for lounging, and I do prefer cotton to the breathable fabric I wear in the gym for the purpose of at-home R & R. It's a little bit warmer, and not as tight, so it won't restrict your gut as the night moves along. Up top, a breathable tank top, layered with an oversized tank top or tee, layered again with a sweater, a big flannel shirt, or my robe. I keep a choice of slippers and Ugg boots handy, so I can vary my footwear based on the temperature. I'm a lover of blanket scarves, and I buy myself one or two new ones each year to add to my rotation. Bonus: they really can double as a blanket on a cold day of train, car or air travel. And of course, I'm never without a hand knit hat.
The colder months are some of the best in which to practice supreme self-care and indulgence. If you're a person who hears that and pictures a warm beach, don't worry, just factor in your love of warmth and relaxation. You'll find that cold weather is the perfect backdrop for some pretty epic pampering. Go ahead and have that cup of hot cocoa spiked with Bailey's! Now's the time! Fill your winter schedule with lots of opportunities to treat yourself. Enjoy a spa day with a friend. Take an extra long bath or shower. Buy yourself a new bathrobe or pair of toasty slippers. Spend entire days in the kitchen making your favorite comfort foods. Snuggle up with your pet (or partner!) and take an afternoon nap. Get a massage. Invite your besties over and have an all-day movie marathon in sweatpants. Indulge, indulge, indulge.
Make it count.
At this time of year, when it's colder and darker and rainier (or snowier), I always feel like Mother Earth is giving me her permission to devote hours and hours to creative pursuits. I don't care who you are or how little talent you think you possess, there is something out there for everyone when it comes to making stuff, and now is an excellent time to connect with your creative side. Having a project helps you stay motivated and enthusiastic, adjectives you maybe don't associate with winter, but maybe you should start! This is the perfect time to dive into some pastimes and projects that bring you joy. Need ideas? I'll start, total stream of consciousness. Knit a sweater. Write a memoir. Build a family tree. Learn how to make candles, or pottery, or origami. Take a cooking class. Learn a musical instrument. Host an open mic night. Spend the winter crushing your fitness goals so you can hike a mountain in the summer. Brew your own beer (all the cool kids are doing it). Teach someone else how to do something you already know how to do. Winter can be an amazing time to dive deeply into something that fascinates you, and doing so will make the time pass so much faster.
Unplug and connect.
The fact of the matter is, it's cold outside, and depending on where you live, maybe it's raining, maybe it's a blizzard and you lose power and have to live off a generator in the dark for a couple of days. At Christmas. Yes, this happened to my family a few years back in Maine. It was cold, and it was dark, but we still had a blast. And while going without central heat in the middle of a nor'easter is not advisable if it can be helped, it's a nice reminder that you don't need much to have a good time. In fact, it's a good time to unplug a bit and enjoy the simpler things. Turn off some of the lights and go with candles and a fire. Opt for a book - maybe even read aloud with your family - instead of the tv. Invite your friends over for company. It may be too cold outside to open the pool, but you can and should open up your home to pass the time with the people you like most. Book clubs, game nights, winter bonfires, dinner parties, weekend getaways - these are all fantastic opportunities to really spend time with people and appreciate one another without as many distractions. Nothing will make you feel warmer than laughing till your sides hurt over a glass of wine with your favorite people. Which makes this last bit the most hygge of all.
Bonus Hygge for Pros: Get outside.
There IS one final thing I wanted to share as a suggestion for getting through the winter, if you're not a winter person, but it's one you might not like at first. Get outside. Yes, yes, that's right, I said bundle up and go for a walk, with your partner, with your friend, with your dog, with your kid, with all of the above. Go in your neighborhood and look at the holiday lights. If your neighborhood is like mine, they'll still be up for you to enjoy in February. Go to the woods and breathe in the wonderful, fresh, clean pine air and enjoy the crunch of snow under your boots. Build a snowman or go sledding with your kids. Or your friends, because you're never too old for a snowman, or sledding. Rent snowshoes and realize that it's actually way harder than you realized. Sometimes, in the winter, it seems like going outside is the absolute last thing we want to do - just the thought of it makes us shiver. But it's important to move our bodies all year long, for our mental health more than anything, and getting outside will making coming inside and sitting down to that mug of spiked coffee (or tea) all the more perfect.
How do you hygge? I'd love to hear some of the things YOU love to do during the cold months and ways that you find warmth, cheer and beauty in the dark. I know it's something so many people struggle with, but I'm confident that hygge can help. And I am always up for new ways to make winter even more amazing, so lay it on me. Meanwhile, I hope you're already finishing this this post from the comfort of your cozy couch with a glass of red wine in your hand, feeling hygge-riffic.
Originally published January 2017