hygge! (how I made peace with winter)

penelope dullaghan - blog about hygge

The weekend before Christmas we drove up to my mom’s house to celebrate with my family, share a meal, hang out and exchange gifts. We all teased each other as usual, laughed and played with newly opened toys (the vintage record player was a BIG hit). We helped our not-so-electronically-inclined relatives make friends with their iPhones. And all enjoyed walking to the park to see the Christmas light display. We stayed an extra day to go thrifting with my mom at our favorite spots and go tobogganing at a state park up north known for their steep run (a little too steep for Veda).

I shared photos of our trip on Facebook and an art director I’ve worked with in the past commented with one word: Hygge! I didn’t know what that meant so I googled it and was blown away by the connotation.

Hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’ or ‘hyooga’) is a Danish word that is hard to translate, but I found attempts on NPR’s site here as well as the MinnPost here. It basically means a bunch of this: coziness, togetherness, well-being, warm tucked under blankets, candles lit, good conversation, snuggled up and happy … all that bundled into one contented feeling and tucked into a word, hygge.

From what I gather, it boils down to embracing winter as an enchanted time rather than hunkering down, bearing it, or battling it. It’s opening to the charm of winter and the quietness of the season.

It’s making bowls of warm soup for your family. Cuddling up under a blanket and reading a good book. Watching a movie with lit candles and buttered popcorn.

You get the idea.

And I love the idea. In fact, I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, but this is *exactly* what I think is behind my finally being over my lifelong suffering of S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder). I’ve written about it lots of times on my blog. But in the last few years I’ve noticed a change in myself. I haven’t gotten blue in the winter at all - especially last year when winter was especially long and biting. I think it’s because I’ve been unknowingly cultivating hygge!

I intentionally do a lot of self-care and cozy things to keep my spirits bright. Things like:

- go for a walk outside every day (bonus if it’s by the river behind our house) for “sky-time” (Vitamin D, baby!)

- bundle up in warm wool sweaters and fleecy leggings and flannel shirts.

- but also understand that when I go outside, I’m gonna feel cold - and that’s a good thing! Lets you know you’re alive!

- I cook nourishing, warm meals at home from scratch for my family nearly every day. (Good nutrition, I think, is a huge key for happy moods and well-being.)

- when the sky gets dark in the evening I go around the house closing curtains and lighting candles.

- building lots of fires in the fireplace.

- snuggles with Colin and Veda on the couch.

- use warm oil (not lotion!) after bathing (this is a whole other topic).

- I focus and work hard during designated “work time,” and then I'm present with other areas of my life when I leave my studio.

All these things and more. But it’s all worked together to cultivate a love of this season that I’ve surely never experienced before. Now I actually appreciate the break from the go-go-go of summer… from tending the garden… and squeezing every drop from long days outside. I love how early nighttime comes. I love the opportunity to settle down and rest. I love finding the subtle colors that only show against the gray winter skies.

It’s been a transformation made over time - and with clear intention. And finding this word “hygge” has felt like the capstone to my own little journey of making peace with winter.