Happy Hygge-Days


It’s officially “Once I’m home I’m not coming back out” season.

— Everyone in a cold climate.

It seems like just yesterday we were complaining about how hot and humid the weather was.

Everything was sticky with sweat or — alternately — dust bowl dry. Searing heat had every weather reporter worth their weight in salt frying eggs on sidewalks.

People were upset if electric companies curtailed use and allowed their home to hit highs of 75 degrees when the air conditioning shut down. Note for the record, many of those same people will claim to be “freezing to death” at 75 degrees during the winter months. Surprise.

Now, the cold weather has arrived to most of the Midwest AS IT ALWAYS HAS and yet, we are surprised anew each year. “Cold weather?” “Damp?” “SNOW?” What???

Such an indignity this fresh new shock springs anew each and every year. Cue the complaints and the memes and the endless observation on how cold and snow “suck.” (Note: technically, they blow.)

I try to be a glass half full type of person — even if that glass is frozen on the windowsill. As such, I admit of my own free will that I actually enjoy living in a four-season climate. There is no denying that autumn is glorious. Everyone waxes rhapsodic over autumn.

Yet, there is something to be said for that first snow of winter. When everything is instantly washed in a blanket of clean bright snow. When the world feels wrapped in a softer layer. The sharp rays of summer with it’s splashing and shouts are muffled and hushed in a blanket of white.

Sure, I then grumble a tiny bit when I have to scrape my windshield but every season has a downside. I have braved serious burns on a summer lit steering wheel or leather seats too.

I have been on a tear to embrace the idea of not complaining about things we cannot change. Or at least trying not to complain AS MUCH. Maybe I could get to like 25% complaining or less?

A few years ago a concept called “hygge” (“hoo-gah”) first hit American social media. Hygge is a lifestyle that “embraces positivity and enjoyment of everyday experiences,” said Kari Leibowitz, a PhD student at Stanford University, who spent a year on a Fulbright scholarship in Tromso in northern Norway, a place where it is effectively dark for two months straight.

Her research focused on how it was possible that the rates of seasonal depression were low. The sum of her research? That instead of asking why people in that dark and frigid climate were not MORE depressed but rather, why the rest of the world, would be?

As a culture, we seem to be chomping at the bit to get into the “holiday season.” We chase and embrace excess in decorations, food, gifts and plans. We then follow this up with three months of anxiety about bills, weight and taxes. No wonder people feel such a letdown when winter comes around.

As it turns out, surviving versus thriving winter is all in the attitude.

In the way of hygge, “people view winter as something to be enjoyed.” Hygge, it seems, is about relaxation, cocooning, and comfort. Soft loungewear, snuggly blankets, home cooking (or takeout?) and an excuse, quite frankly, to do a whole lot less.

Embrace a season where hot tea or, even better, hot cocoa is always in season. Add cream, peppermint, mocha, caramel or more chocolate. Never ever is there really too much chocolate. Spritz with whipped cream (the canned kind that is fun to spray). Snuggle up with some hot, buttery popcorn or fresh baked cookies, a good book, movie or game nights (board or sports) with family and friends.

Gratitude is a big part of hygge. Yes the cold is stark and, frankly, startling sometimes. If you have the ability to come in from the cold to warmth, ample food, family and friends, or sometimes even solitude. You are pretty blessed.

Speaking of solitude, I miss the days when shouting “not it” was an effective way of getting out of things I did not want to do. Wintry weather is the adult version of “not it.” Getting dark before dinner calls for jammies right after work and not going out much if you ask me.

We have spent endless hours making this house a home. I’m definitely down with staying in and enjoying the fruits of our labor. While the weather outside is frightful, being indoors by a roaring fire IS pretty delightful. Ditto a heated blanket or a snuggly pet.

Now if it starts snowing in July, I’m definitely going to complain. Then I’m going to make some hot cocoa, jump in my jammies, and embrace the spirit of things.

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