During the months of October to February, I’m miserable. I spend the winter months sitting on the couch watching mindless television. I gain weight. I don’t feel good about myself. I make excuses. I tell myself it's okay to hibernate. Each year, I dread the winter.
My husband, unaffected by winter depression, is always out and about unphased by the cold. I envied his ability to appreciate the season. I told myself I was made different. I told myself I needed more vitamin D. The truth was I needed to change my mindset.
2020 was eye opening for me, as it has been for many of us. Having spent so much time at home, I realized the positive effect decluttering had on my mind. Looking around my home, I saw unused items and clutter that made it difficult for me to relax. After many trips to the garbage can and several bulk pickups, I organized my remaining items. When everything had a place to go, it was simpler to tidy up. The less clutter I saw, the less overwhelmed I became. The less overwhelmed I was, the more active I became.
In addition to continuous decluttering, I incorporated Hygge into my lifestyle.
Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish expression that focuses on finding joy in everyday moments. Rather than dread the winter, hygge celebrates coziness and family, as well as practicing mindfulness. This concept has been around a long time, likely to deal with short days and long nights in Denmark and their long winters.
Since Denmark is one of the world's happiest countries, I figured the Danes must know what they’re doing. I did some research on the concept of Hygge and changed my outlook. I’m an active person but allowed winter to take that from me. Instead of layering for the cold, I avoided it. Hygge has given me a way to accept winter and even, gasp, enjoy it.
The Hygge lifestyle involves the following concepts.
1. Spend quality time with family and friends.
With the pandemic, we’ve been limited to spending time with those we live with. The difference with this concept is the word quality. Sitting around doing nothing together doesn’t make you happy. By doing activities with your loved ones, you’re making the most out of the slower months.
Covid has given me time to play guitar. I started a couple months ago and am still very much a beginner. I purchased a guitar for my son recently and have made this an activity we do together. We sit on the couch, put on a Marty Schwartz You Tube video and follow along.
I feel good about spending the time with my son, about learning something new and feeling proby ductive at home.
2. Avoid multi-tasking.
Hygge is all about living in the moment. For someone who multi tasks most of the time, this was a very difficult concept to understand. I watch tv with my phone in one hand. I attend a virtual meeting, place myself on mute and work on other deliverables. It is a constant in my life. Until I made a conscious effort to stop multi-tasking, I didn’t realize how stressful it was making my life. By constantly doing multiple things, I didn’t give my brain the time it needed to slow down.
Living a hygge lifestyle means putting the phone down. It means grabbing that book you’ve wanted to read and cuddling up on the couch to read it.
3. Minimize stress.
This is clearly difficult with the pandemic but we owe it to ourselves to only focus on that which we can control. Covid has made me stop over scheduling my calendar. I am more mindful of my commitments and schedule.
We create our own stress. Instead of allowing myself some indulgence, I feel guilty about it. The guilt removes the enjoyment and adds unnecessary stress.
Spending time decluttering and adopting a less is more mindset also helped reduce my stress. By controlling my stress, I was able to free my mind to focus on other things.
4. Stop working at a predefined time.
For those of us who work from home, work never seems to end. The work days bleed into each other. There’s no break from work when you live and work in the same place. It’s essential we stop working at a predefined time so we can do other things.
One activity that has really helped me get through the colder months and maintain my sanity has been playing guitar. I also make it a point to go for a walk after work, which brings me to the next Hygge concept.
Bicycles are part of the daily lifestyle in Denmark. Here in the US, we are much more sedentary. We spend our days looking at laptops and our evenings watching tv.
My home exercise equipment is in the garage. The garage is cold, dark and dreary. It also requires me to walk outside my house and open another door. It’s tough to motivate myself to do this. This results in not exercising. Instead of feeling guilty, I have decided small wins are okay. After work each day, I take a long walk. I also break up the day and the time in front of a screen by taking another walk during the day. Getting out during the daylight has helped cope with the winter as well.
6. Eat Well.
This one makes the whole concept worth it! Hygge is focused on comfort foods. It’s about savoring that freshly baked bread or slow cooked beef stew.
Being that our bodies more calories in the cold, we shouldn’t feel guilty about eating heartier foods this time of year. I seem to have two identities when it comes to indulgence. I’m either all in or I feel guilty at having a banana!
I’ve incorporated more of a balance this winter to allow for heartier foods as well as my usual salads.
7. Wear comfortable clothing.
I am no stranger to wearing home clothes immediately after I come home from work. Since we’re all working from home these days, home clothes are my daily clothes. I don’t wear jeans in the house and don’t feel guilty about it. Most days I’m in hoodies and sweatpants.
Wearing comfortable clothing and reading a book with a warm beverage is a very hygge-like activity, as long as your phone isn’t by your side. I’ve enjoyed this lifestyle so much that I’ve made a designated area in my house for journaling and reading.
Hygge has given me balance. The focus on enjoying quality time with my family, being present, comfortable, and eating well has removed stress and guilt from my life. By removing guilt, I’ve been able to actually enjoy the season.
Tonight, I have big plans after work. I’m going to take my dog on a long walk, throw dinner in the oven and play guitar with my son. The best part of my evening is the lack of guilt. I am living my best life this winter, for the first time in years thanks to the concept of Hygge. Try it and let me know if it works for you!