Hygge: happiness and wellbeing?

I saw this book the other day at a friend’s house, and she recommended it for me – she knows I am interested in wellness right now! I haven’t read the book yet, but it got me thinking about what Hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah, the internet has lead me to believe) is and why it helps us feel well/happy. (Just a side note: I am terrible at pronouncing words. I do lots of reading on the internet and often forget to check how things are pronounced by real people, outside of my head. I was saying kinoah instead of quinoa for about 6 months before someone corrected me).

Hygge, or the Danish art of wellness, could be the reason the Danish people in general are so happy; The fourth world happiness report this year found that Denmark is the happiest country in the world, with several other Scandinavian countries at the top of the list (the UK is 23rd, and the US is 13th). It’s about taking time to enjoy simple things, enjoying time spent with friends and family, in a meaningful way, and generally not feeling too bleak through the winter.

This all really appeals to me; I’m a sun bug and happiest in the summer, at the beach, sipping a cool cider, and so naturally I struggle sometimes in winter, when it’s cold and dark and even the weather is described as ‘miserable’. Just today, the sky is a big grey blanket flopped over the countryside and the temperature has dropped; and I already feel like I have less energy. If you could write my mood on my head it would just say ‘meh’.

But maybe taking more time and relaxing indoors more doesn’t need to be a bad thing. There is evidence to suggest that daylight improves our mood, or at least maintains it; without enough sunlight, our serotonin levels can dip too low, and we can feel depressed. It’s easy to get caught up in a feeling that summer is somehow better because parties and BBQs and staying up later. But as you cannot have yin without yang, summer and winter represent a dualistic experience in our lives; we cannot have one without the other (generally speaking. obviously if you live close to a pole or the equator, the effect will be less pronounced). And perhaps we can look on this dual experience as a way to focus our experiences; we get excited about summer because it’s different to winter, if there were no seasons, then summer would be meaningless.

In respect of this, I am going to try my best to enjoy this winter for what it is; an opportunity to enjoy the little things; to curl up on the couch to watch movies, to make home cooking a priority and try that soup recipe I have been meaning to, to catch up on reading, oh and the small priority of attacking the mountain of painting and decorating we still have to do!

Do you struggle with the changing seasons? How do you overcome it?

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