Keep the Whole Family Cozy with Hygge

Many people have been inspired by the hygge tradition, fervently practiced in Denmark, which is home to the world’s happiest people. If you haven’t yet learned about hygge, the Danish word can be loosely translated as “cozy”, but in practice it means so much more! The fanciest definition we have heard is, “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” We like to think of it as “infusing life with happiness through warmth and comfort.” And if you’re wondering how to pronounce it, here’s a simple guide: “HOO-guh”.

Perhaps you’re like me and were surprised by how fast life started feeling hectic again as pandemic restrictions relaxed. Now that the weather is turning colder, I’d like to imagine families slowing down the pace once again, this time because they want to, while getting cozy at home. What a wonderful way to pamper yourself and expand your focus on self-care—for all of you.

What does it mean to practice hygge?

Hygge is an important part of the Danish cultural identity. It is a big concept and there is a lot of interesting information out there. In this blog we’re going to focus on simple ways that families can bring warmth and comfort into their lives, together (and apart, as part of your self-care routines). Some important elements of hygge are: being comfortable and warm, surrounded by delicious smells and warm lighting, and enjoying your favorite baked goods, soups, stews, and warm beverages.  Simple is key and board games, TV, or movies are chosen over video games or using smart phones.

Turn up the heat and snuggle up in your favorite sweatpants and “ugly” holiday sweaters or sweatshirts, your thickest socks and leg warmers, fuzzy blankets, and whatever makes you feel good.

All sources mention fireplaces and candles as necessary elements of hygge. While not all of us have fireplaces (or a safe way to burn candles), there are ways to imitate the soft flickering glow of a fire. Some people use the fireplace channel or a smartphone app to get this effect, while others use flickering holiday lights. Wax candles as well as the reusable kind add to that warm, flickering glow.

Surround yourselves now with the smells of your favorite warm drinks and soups or stews (or whatever makes you feel relaxed and nourished). You might want to prepare a recipe you remember from your own childhood. Slow cookers are wonderful here, or goodies baked in the oven. (This blog has great tips for cooking with kids.) Simply boiling water on the stove with a few cinnamon sticks or cloves will also fill the house with a wonderful and warming aroma.

Finally, do a family activity that you can all enjoy. Board games are classic, but there are so many possibilities! Kids love to hear stories about their parents when they were younger. Tell some stories and let them ask questions. Or play storytelling games. My kids love to take advantage of the dim lighting to make shadow puppets. TV and family movies are also hyggelig (hygge-like). Do what feels cozy, relaxing, and pleasant.

How much can you hygge?

Until we all can remember to infuse our days and hours with hygge, try setting aside the amount of time that feels manageable to you, right now. Can you practice hygge one day each week or month? A morning or afternoon? 2 hours? 1 hour? In the hour after school to help kids recharge? Any amount of time that you can set aside for family hygge will be time well spent. Put it on your calendar! Here are some KITS tips for establishing a new routine. Your family will surely thank you for it!

As final note: remember, like the Danes, to balance cozy indoor time with outdoor, physical activity. At this time of year it’s worth remembering, “There’s no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!”

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