Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Take a Danish Hygge Break

Pronounced “hue-gah,” the Danish term “hygge” means creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with people you most enjoy. It is an absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming and the presence of comforting, gentle and soothing things. Originating in Norway, where it meant well being, the high season of hygge is Christmas. Candles, mulled wine, fire places, blankets and scarves makes the long and cold winter season bearable and for many, quite enjoyable.

Danes are the happiest nation in the world for good reason – they make enjoyment a priority and take the time to celebrate/acknowledge simple, wonderful moments (like meals, visiting, being active or even just drinking coffee!) that nourish the soul. They find ways to incorporate hygge into their daily life so it becomes a natural extension rather than a forced and stressful event. By creating simple rituals without effort {such as brewing real tea with a little china cup every evening to stopping at the flower shop every week} the Danes see both the domestic and personal life as an art form and not every drudgery to get away from.

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, what better way to usher in the holiday season then with a variety of different ways to bring hygge into your everyday life.

• Pay attention to what makes you fell open hearted and alive. What are those simple rituals and pleasures that give meaning and comfort to you?
• Light up your space with candles (flame less are fine).

• Use your fireplace if you have one. If you can’t burn wood in it, consider candles or even a gas model.

• Even though it’s cold outside, adopt the Danes custom of warm clothing and invite friends over for an outside bonfire. A mug of cocoa, coffee, tea or even mulled hot cider are great ways to chill the night air as you stand close to the fire.

• Take a long soak in the bathtub by candlelight.

• Call a friend, dress warm, bring a mug of something hot and take a walk.

• Snuggle on the couch with books, magazines, and something warm to eat and drink.

• Invite people you enjoy for an evening of good food, conversation, games, music or whatever appeals to you and your friends. This part is important No cell phones or political discussions allowed.

• For the spaces in your house, where you spend the most time, surround them with things you love. Remember this isn’t about “having” but rather about being. Instead of going out and buying something new, put out an item you really enjoy seeing, but seldom do because it’s packed away for “safe keeping.”

• Make a warm cup of something, sit in a rocking chair, plays some music and spend a while enjoying your hygge break.

• Have a “cookie bake” where several friends come and bring their favorite recipes, which you will make over the course of the afternoon/evening.

• Involve your children, family and friends in preparing for the holidays ahead. Plan parties where you make presents for one another. If you need ideas, there are literally hundreds of ideas from the last four years of Take A Break.

• Turn off the TV and enjoy doing something with your family- games, telling stories, working on a crossword puzzle or Lego's together. Create a movie night, where each member of the family takes turns selecting the movie, make some snacks and depending on age, provide a brief introduction to the film. The film title is kept secret until “show time.”

• Keep hygge in mind when making or selecting presents this season. Since this is a time of year where it’s wonderful to snuggle up and be cozy, warm throws for the sofa, comfy slippers, candles made from beeswax and soy that are unscented, and a tea, coffee or cocoa set will be appreciated. Exceptional chocolates or other treats that you make or buy are always welcome.  Gift certificates for things like a pedicure, massage or a visit to the hair salon can make someone’s day.  If you like to knit or crochet, warm scarves, mittens and hats are perfect for this time of year. Keep it simple, make it yourself if you can, and surprise family and friends with something you enjoyed making. 

I’ve had so much fun working on this post. I think hygge is the Danes understanding that finding contentment, and certainly making room for it daily, leads to a good quality of life. 

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