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Learning to Embrace Winter

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January 10, 2017

Winter is not a favorite season for many people, myself included. But recently I learned that Denmark is consistently ranked the happiest country in the world, despite its long, cold, dreary winters. How do the Danes avoid the blues during the long winter months? The answer is hygge.

What is Hygge?

It’s a hard word to translate, and terms like well-being, togetherness, happiness, and comfort don’t entirely do it justice. Consider hygge a sort of mood. In the US, after the holiday season is over, we put away the decorations and resign ourselves to the cold, desolate months until spring. In contrast, the Danes don’t just tolerate winter, they embrace it. They gather joyously, light candles, and celebrate the season.

I think the word embrace is essential to the spirit of hygge, and it is just what I am trying to do this winter. I’m taking more time to cuddle in a blanket with a steaming cup of hot cocoa to enjoy a good book. I’m planning more family nights of baking and movies. I’m taking on new hobbies that keep me busy (and happy). I’m even planning more outdoor activities. My family is not into winter sports, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take wintery walks around the city, and stop for tea at a cozy restaurant.

Here are more ways to practice hygge and embrace winter the Danish way:

  • Choose inspiring movies and books. Enjoying works of art that nurture your soul and leave you with a sense of joy or peace will help you stay positive.
  • Host get-togethers. Fostering community will help you enjoy the short days and long nights, and give you occasions to look forward to.
  • Get out of the house. It’s tempting to hunker down indoors when it’s cold outside, but too much indoor time will make you stale and restless. A brisk walk, even in the rain or snow, will sharpen your mind and lift your spirits; so will a visit to a friend, or a trip to the library or local museum.
  • Think hot (soups, fires, and drinks).
  • Bake more. Spending time in the warm kitchen will bring the family together doing something fun and creative. Why not make some extra baked goods and bring them to a neighbor, or to a local homeless shelter or nursing home? Nothing like giving to make you feel great!
  • Do something new. Take the slower winter months to engage in an activity you’ve wanted to try. Whether it’s writing, knitting, to taking an astronomy class, discovering new passions or rekindling old ones keeps us motivated and inspired.
  • Start a gratitude journal. Take a few minutes each day, or every few days, to savor the things you are thankful for.
  • Try a winter sport. Bundle up and give skiing, snowboarding, or ice-skating a try.
  • Cozy up. Create an atmosphere of warmth with fuzzy blankets and extra pillows and throws. Have a fireplace? Now is the time to use it!
  • Decorate like it’s a holiday. Nothing says happy like decorations, candles, and a little extra bling to bring some shine and joy into the house. I keep lights strung from the mantle all year ’round to create an inviting, festive atmosphere every day.
  • Get wet! Water is therapeutic for most people, whether it’s a bath, a hot tub, or a swimming pool. Spend a few hours at an indoor water park, or in the pool and the hot tub at the YMCA. If it’s cold and gray outside, take a long, luxurious bubble bath at home.

This winter, instead of counting the days until spring, take some time to do things you love and practice hygge. You may discover you love winter after all!

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