I think I’m getting the hang of this long and cold winter thing. It’s taken me a while, but I’m getting there. When I first moved to Maine, to say I struggled through the winter would be a mild understatement. My vitamin D levels tanked, and there was record snowfall the first year I was here. I was not in a good place. It was a hard start to my journey into Maine winters.
The following few years were also a struggle, and I noticed I wasn’t the only grumpy person. Neighbors and co-workers were equal-opportunity winter complainers.
This video kind of sums up how I would feel at some point every winter…
But then I learned about hygge.
Directly translated in Danish, hygge means cozy. But it seems to be an important way of life and thinking during the winter in Scandinavian countries, and it’s spreading to across the globe. Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world, and it seems they have long held a secret to happiness during winter that may be able to help us out here in Maine. I know hygge has helped me.
According to this piece in the New York Times, hygge (pronounced HOO-gah) involves cake, candles, cozy blankets, hand-knit items, lots of snuggle time, and an engagement in all things that make winter wonderful—warm fires, warm drinks, time with family. And it’s deeply ingrained. Hygge is a part of the culture and thought in Denmark, and it’s considered very important.
You may have heard of hygge already, and, like me, you may have found that you can buy things to try to replicate hygge in your home. Companies are popping up everywhere, but hygge doesn’t have to cost a lot of money—or any money at all, really.
We’ve been able to find my own Mainer version of hygge, and it’s really working for our family. No winter blues yet!
When it’s cold outside, warm and cozy flannel sheets are critical. If you don’t have flannel sheets, I highly recommend them, though I know that goes against my “this doesn’t have to cost anything” argument. Hopefully, you already have some flannel sheets. If you do, just remember to enjoy them. That’s a part of hygge.
Candles are an important part of hygge in Scandinavian countries, and I can see why. They help create a cozy, relaxing mood. Since we live in rural Maine and always have to be prepared for power outages, we have tons of candles already. So we’ve just decided to use them for non-emergencies as well.
One of the things that has been important for our family is finding something to pull us away from electronics to help us enjoy our time together more. We’ve been playing some fantastic board games a few nights a week, and it’s so much fun. I’m completely non-competitive, so I don’t know how much fun I am to play with, but sitting at our dining room table with the stove running in the background, keeping us warm, is a critical part of hygge for me.
This one is totally free. Snuggle your kiddos, your significant other, your pets. There’s some research to support this, about the good hormones we release when we have good touch, so I’m sure the Danes are onto something here. Just snuggle, snuggle, snuggle. It really does lead to winter happiness.
Soft sweaters, hats, and socks
Soft, cozy, and handmade is also a part of hygge, and we have a lot of these things around here. Keeping your feet, hands, and head warm really will help your mood.
So I do have to go for walks to make this last part possible, but savoring yummy treats is also a part of it. Last week, I went full hygge and made us a cake for no reason. It was lovely!
My husband and I have made hygge like a mantra now that we know how to pronounce it. We’re somehow learning to focus on hygge, just as the Danes seem to—or at least we’re getting there.
The key element of all this is to savor your experiences. Invest in making yourself happy. I think this is the part that is probably hardest for us as Americans. We can’t worry about the work we should be doing or the laundry that needs to be done. Try to take in all the coziness, warmth, and happiness.
If you’re like me, that last part, really letting go of what you think you should be doing, is going to take some time. But my hygge plans are working. And it’s totally worth it.
What are your plans to make it through the long winter? How can you hygge?