It’s a gloomy Saturday, all chilling drizzle and slate-grey skies, the sodden swish of cars driving past my window. As one who has a tendency towards depression (even though it’s currently being well-managed medically), I’m particularly mindful of days like today, where it would be easy enough to slip into the dreary melancholy that seems to saturate everything around me.
I’ve learned to combat the inhospitable with the comfortable – by creating an environment of hygge. My Danish friends acquainted me with the concept before it became a cultural buzzword here in the States a few years back. If that was off your radar, a brief explanation: hygge is a word that doesn’t have a direct English translation, but the closest is “coziness”. It’s a sense of quiet contentment and comfort and well-being, usually shared with others.
Some hygge-inducing activities include slipping into soft clothing, sipping a warm drink, and lighting a fire or a candle. If you’re taking it to full-on Danish levels, it could also be about hand knit socks and cardamom buns, but you don’t need to go so far. It’s basically about taking pleasure in small, simple, soothing things.
Americans, in aggregate, are not so good with small things – it’s part of the “go big or go home” ethos of this country that can cut both ways; it can lead to great accomplishments but at the same time makes us particularly unattuned to the less obvious (and often equally wonderful) things in life. Hygge asks us to step back from trying to make a larger statement or to assume that enjoyment needs to be frantically larger-than-life.
As each day brings more devastating news and our nerves are further frayed, it doesn’t help us to attempt to counter the onslaught of the negative with an equal amount of the positive (probably not possible) and a frenetic search for enjoyment that will match the enormity of what we’re now living through. Rather, we’re best served by the simple and basic activities that bring us comfort, and by finding ways to support our parasympathetic nervous system through those things that soothe us.
So. A sip of tea. A softly snug scarf. A cuddle with you pet. Sharing some quiet time with your partner, sitting convivially on the couch, soft music in the background. A cozy late afternoon as rain patters the windows. The Danes are definitely onto something. We could all use a bit of hygge these days.