Scandinavian Hygge and Why you Need to Start Practicing it Immediately!
After a little break from the podcast last week, and after a very deep and personal topic in our most recent Body Image Series, I thought it was time for some comfort. Yes, we're going to talk about delicious comforting food, but we're also going much deeper into the world of "comfy". Today I'm teaching you about my favorite word/philosophy/perfect new winter hobby: hygge. Hygge (pronounced /hiu-guh/) is one of the reasons I love Scandinavian culture. I love their design, their decor with those earthy tones and pops of color in just the right places. I love their architecture and practicality. I love their education philosophies and strategies, as well as their simple way of living, but after discovering Hygge it was like a window opened up into their uniqueness and I realized: "ahhh.. this is why they're so cool and so happy!". I was in on their secret and today I'm sharing the Hygge love with you!
So what is Hygge anyway? Hygge, now finally in the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)". Here's another definition: "a type of lifestyle practiced in Denmark where the focus is on simple pleasures, comfort and coziness, and spending time with friends and family." (Macmillan Dictionary). In other words, it's a philosophy or a way of life that inspires you to do everything you do while making sure you're feeling cozy when you do it.
Have you ever been to a warm little cabin in the woods, with your family or with friends, where your dog or cat cuddled up with you while you wore chunky sweaters, oversized fluffy socks and held a hot cup of hot chocolate in your hands while you sat in front of the fire with a good book? Imagine living your life, making sure you've got that, aka plenty of Hygge, every single day. Oh lordy we've hit the motherload!
Think of the small pleasure of lying in bed on a rainy day, under the covers with a good movie to watch and nowhere to be, nothing to do.
Imagine getting home from work on a cold winter day, shaking off the snow from your boots, or the rain from your coat, and heating up a yummy bowl of chili while the smells of garlic bread fill the air.
Picture the simple act of having your coffee in the morning on your favorite chair or couch but putting some thick Christmas-like socks on, the kind that have an inner lining that makes you think a teddy bear was assasinated to make them.
Imagine doing these little acts of "cozy" every single day of your life.
Hygge is family time on Christmas morning next to a lit fireplace.
Hygge is sticking your feet into the coziest, softest, slippers or socks while you sink into your favorite spot on the couch and hold a hot cup of tea with both hands and smell it.
Hygge is wearing oversized flannel pajamas and reading your favorite book.
Hygge is what you feel when you push play on that silly crackling fire video on Netflix.
Hygge is waiting for your Thanksgiving meal to be ready, while you snuggle in the couch with your dog or cat and the delicious smells fill the room.
Hygge is your favorite blanket.
Hygge is Santa.
Hygge sounds ridiculous and overindulgent but that's just because you're jealous you haven't tried it yet!
Hygge, welcome to my life! I will love you forever and I will never let go!
Inserting Hygge into your self care
If you've read or listened to our body image series in the blog or podcast, especially part 2, you probably know by now that I always talk about the importance of self care when we're trying to look after ourselves better. This includes things like proper sleep, me time, down time, eating foods you love and not pushing your body to either limit when it comes to food. You know how much I recommend journaling, or spending time with good friends. Saying no to extra commitments or plans with people that make you feel you're running on empty instead of full to the brim with joy and companionship. I tell you about the importance of moving your body in ways that feel good and joyful, and I tell you about the importance of getting to know yourself better, what you like and don't like, setting boundaries and eating nourishing foods that also bring you joy. So much can be said when it comes to the importance of self care and ways to add more to your daily habits. Now I'm adding Hygge. It could just be the ultimate form of mindfulness because it pulls you into a moment of feeling the comfort, and the goodness if you can practice all the other forms of self care we've been talking about with Hygge right there next to them.
Whether you're in the middle of winter in Canada, and this might mean getting comfy, loose, warm clothing, to purposely get into when you're going to bed or sitting on the couch to watch a movie. Whether this means wearing comfy extra large shifts or dresses or shirts while at the beach in a tropical paradise where thick socks just won't fly, Hygge is all about comfort and feeling at home and at peace, and if it sounds like a dream it's because in real life it's going to be even better. Trust me, for the past week I've lived with Hygge, eaten with Hygge, taken baths with Hygge and gone to sleep with Hygge and it has been IN-CRE-DI-BLE.
Bringing you down to planet Earth and the present moment
One of the self care habits that has changed my life the most as you know is mindfulness. I had tried to meditate for years since my mother swore by it, and it had never worked for me. It was only when I started reading about MBSR, guided mindfulness meditations and making meditation my own, that I was finally able to make this a regular part of my practice. It has changed so much of my day to day life.
One of the reasons I fell in love with the concept of Hygge was that I felt it ringing those "time for mindfulness" bells in my head. If getting cozy and comfy is something we do to start adopting that Scandinavian kindness and cheer, what comes after the cozy comforter is over us, or the extra foamy cappuccino is in our hand warming us up, is a moment of pure mindfulness. It's a time in which we come back down to planet Earth, into our chair, into our bodies and into the present moment, if only for that blissful second of "ahhhhhh....". we feel relief, we're without anxious or stressful thoughts, we're out of our heads and forget the to do lists. That's where I think the secret of Hygge lies. It's all about gettng back into the present moment.
Practice... practice... practice
When it comes to incorporating new habits, or leaving old ones behind, practice is really everything. In our recent body image series we talked so much about recognizing the different voices that pop up when we look in the mirror, have to make a food choice or an exercise choice, and how to start listening to the kinder, gentler, and more intuitive voice. I talked about the importance of practicing and practicing this until it becomes the default no matter how many detours you take along the way.
When it came to mindfulness, I quickly learned that it was normal for my mind to wander. In fact being able to sustain a habitual meditation practice actually relies on those moments in which you realize the mind has wandered, and you bring it back, without judgement. It wanders and you bring it back. It wanders again and you bring it back. Again, it's all about practice.
Everything becomes second nature with practice.
Practice the bad and that's the default, practice the good and that becomes your go-to. This is what I think of first when I think of self-care, and practicing some of those feel-good habits, like hygge or any other that fills your heart with joy. The more we do it, the more we get used to making space in our day for self care and feeling centered and balanced. This in turn helps make everything better, our relationship with food improves, our kindness to ourselves improves, we reduce stress, sleep better, and are able to be still and spend time with the people closest to us with full awareness. This is why, when talking about Hygge, or any of our favorite self care tools, we need a list.
A list that we can glance at and feel anticipation for the fact that delicious cozy pleasure will arrive soon.
So yes... I made a little Hygge list for you to get you started:
Ideas for Practicing Hygge
Although we think of winter and warmth when we think of cozy, and that is certainly the case for the Danish who invented this wonderful concept, I think we can practice coziness no matter what weather we're in. Cozy is comfort after all, so feel free to adapt as many of these to you and the place where you live, whether you're surrounded by snowy hillsides, hot sandy beaches or somewhere in between:
- Get some comfortable clothing for your day to day activities. Aka clothes that fit your body and feel good. Even if that means you need to go up in sizes. Find clothes that make you feel ease, not restriction or tightness.
- Get some extreme Hygge clothes. Picture what you would wear after a long day of work if no one is looking. Whether that be flannel pajamas, a cozy robe with slippers, or flannel shorts, a big sweater and knee high socks (my weapon of choice). Whether it's your skiing outfit, a comfy dress or an oversized tee, a giant sweater or nothing at all under a cozy comforter, no matter what it is that makes you go "aaahhh" that's your new Hygge outfit.
- If you don't currently own anything that even resembles this, go to a store and shop by touch. Is it just me or do you like to walk into a store and touch those super irresistible fabrics with your fingers. The one that looks yummy to the touch, that's a Hygge providing outfit right there!
- Buy a pair of socks that make you wonder if they're socks or teddy bears, and that make you wonder if it's ok for an adult to buy them. Buy them and wear them.
- Make yourself a cup of tea, coffeee or hot chocolate and relax in your Hygge outfit on the couch with a good book or movie.
- Choose a book or movie that you REALLY want to watch. The one you would watch if no one found out about it.
- Buy some synthetic yarn that feels amazing and start learning how to knit. Put on music that is soothing and relaxing, or that will transport you to a time you loved.
- Make a pot of soup and eat it with a really good bread you love.
- Make comforting meals like the ones below.
- Have a bubble bath, light some warm colored candles that smell great and indulge in this moment of warmth with some soothing music or a good book.
- If it's the wintertime and you have a fireplace, warm up some apple cider or heat up some apple juice, stick a cinnamon stick in it and cuddle with your favorite people or pets around the fire.
- Cover your couch and bed with some welcoming and cozy blankets and pillows.
- Have a delicious warm pastry and coffee for breakfast.
- Sit down to work only with some essentials surrounding you that will make you feel peaceful: some cool journals or notebooks you can write ideas into, a cozy sweater nearby, a warm cup of coffee or tea with a knit cozy around it, some cool and pretty pens, and anything that will make your workspace "Hygge".
- Wear a scarf, hat and mittens that make you feel like you just walked into a warmed up sleeping bag.
- Go camping under the stars and wear all the warm, cozy essentials listed above, or make a fort in your living room (don't worry, I won't tell). Fill it with pillows and duvet covers and snuggle.
- Go to a tea shop and buy some loose leaf tea of the REAL kind. Ask to smell some teas with things like cardamom, coconut, cinnamon, clove or chocolate. Splurge on a little bag and brew a cup.
- Get some mug cozies or drink everything from water to hot cocoa in your favorite "feel good" mug, forget glasses.
- Find a bookstore that has couches and comfy chairs, fill up your thermos with a delicious latte, and go browse through some books. Indulge in the moment.
- Want to kick it up a notch? Put on some rain sounds on your phone, get into your cozy gear and let yourself take a well deserved Hygge nap.
- Cook something comforting and put on some music or your favorite Christmas movie while you do it, even if it isn't Christmas.
- Get together with really close friends or loved ones for some really good conversation, this is at the heart of Hygge, and although it can also be practiced alone, what's better than a cozy, homey, time with friends and family.
Now remember Hygge is also about simplicity, It's not about worrying if your time or budget is limited, Use what you have, and use the time that you have, even if it's just a 5 minute break from the computer at the office. In the land of hygge it's all about simplicity, feeling cozy and at home, and being together with friends and loved ones.
Of course, when I think of Hygge I also think of food. Delicious, warm cozy, home-made food. So I made another list!
Hygge cooking, aka good old-fashioned comfort food... veganized
Here are some Hygge friendly, comforting meals (at least in my opinion... Scandinavian comfort food is probably quite different!):
- Make any type of lasagna you like, my favorite is making it with a rich bolognese with vegan meat crumbles and chopped mushrooms, and a cashew bechamel sauce. Make lots of layers so that digging in is a true pleasure.
- Make a delicious bowl of ooey and gooey mac and cheese. Check out our vegan mac and cheese architecture post for lots of ideas.
- Make a seitan roast or seitan steak and serve it with gravy, mashed potatoes and peas.
- Make a creamy and warm bowl of oatmeal with some peanut butter swirled in and a sprinkle of cinnamon, maple syrup and clove.
- Make yourself a delicious pumpkin spice latte.
- Roast some potatoes in the oven and drizzle some truffle oil on top.
- Bake some bread at home, like this no knead Irish bread!
- Make your favorite kind of pie and a cup of tea to go with it.
- Bake a batch of our pb and j dot cookies and dunk them in hot coffee or milk.
- Make a comforting bowl of your favorite pasta and make some garlic bread by toasting your favorite bread with some non-dairy butter, garlic and parsley spread on top.
- Make a hearty stew or chili and cornbread.
- Make a pot pie with your favorite vegan no-chicken bites and biscuit dough on top.
- Make a creamy and yummy mushroom strogonoff over noodles by using different types of mushrooms and adding some wine, balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs and cashew cream and letting it form a delicious creamy mushroom sauce.
- Order a yummy pizza without cheese, add some vegan cheese at home and pop it under the broiler for a few minutes, or make your own pizza at home!
- Make a bowl of French onion soup. Melted vegan cheese topping and everything!
- Serve your soups or chilis in individual clay pots instead of regular china.
- Make an Irish stew with mushrooms instead of beef.
- Make our chestnut and lentil meatloaf and serve it over mashed potatoes with some gravy.
- Make a potato casserole in the oven and top it with some tempeh bacon and cashew sour cream and chives.
- Make some loaded potato skins or loaded baked potatoes with your favorite toppings.
- Make a warm frittata with lots of veggies for breakfast (there's a yummy one in our FREE breakfast and brunch course!).
- Make a yummy and bubbly spinach and artichoke dip.
- Make vegan cheese fondue or even chocolate fondue (we'll have recipes for you soon since these are some of my favorite things to eat!).
- Whatever food reminds you of warmth, a happy and simple time in your life, and that makes you smile when you think about it, make it and enjoy it while you have some cozy socks on your feet.
I've created a Hygge Pinterest board!
Just in case you STILL need more ideas, or a visual, or some recipes, I've created a Hygge Pinterest board! Don't forget to follow us on Pinterest so you can enjoy new ideas and pins as I add to it. It's Hygge inspiration at your fingertips, with everything from decor, homey and cozy objects, apparel, architecture, art, and of course food, activities and self care, good books and so much more!
Ready to Hygge with me? Leave me one Hygge friendly thing you plan to do this week, or that you already do on a regular basis in the comments below!
Thank you Scandinavia for bringing even more beauty, simplicity and joy into my life (other than just the joy of visiting IKEA which you'd quickly know I enjoy by just visiting my house!).