If you’ve never heard of “Hygge” before reading this, it’s time to drop everything and pay attention because it will change your life, or at least change the way you feel about taking care of yourself.
So, what exactly is hygge? First, it’s pronounced “hue-gah” and is a Danish word that essentially means “coziness of the soul.” It’s togetherness, relaxation, indulgence, comfort, and presence all rolled into one. For me, hygge is cool weather, wearing a comfy pair of leggings and long sleeve shirt, some fuzzy socks, a hot cup of coffee or tea, and reading a book, all while curled up on my swing outside. Hygge highlights the simple pleasures in life and makes that the focus of finding happiness ~ the aroma of a delicious stew simmering on the stove for hours, flickering candles in a dimly lit room, playing boards games around a table with close friends, watching snow fall outside while a fire keeps you warm inside, etc. When you practice hygge, you are not only surrounded by coziness but you are fully present to experience it and conscientiously aware of it; it’s not playing board games with friends while everyone has their phones out and are also checking messages.
You might be thinking right about now that hygge sounds amazing – and it is! – but it’s also harder to practice than I thought. I have a terrible time with “mom guilt” and putting myself first, so hygge is a struggle to get into at times. Eli and Ava have overlapping school schedules for 2 hours on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, so that’s 6 hours total of free time for me….or rather, that’s 6 hours of time I have to use for weekly menu planning, grocery shopping, catching up on laundry, cleaning the house, doing yard work, going for dental/doctor check ups, shopping for birthday/Christmas gifts for family and friends, and on and on. Even if I decide to spend an hour outside in the patio swing reading a book, I’m still thinking in the back of my mind that I should be inside doing dishes so that when the kids get home from school, I can focus on them and not have to do dishes. Mom guilt is real!!
Okay, back to hygge. So, my dear friend Maura introduced me to the concept of hygge and even decided to throw a hygge party last weekend. It was epic! The first thing that greeted guests was a large hygge sign, placed on top a chunky sweater blanket, and lit by the glow of white candles. The lights were dim in the house and just beyond the welcome table was the most gorgeous display of assorted meats and cheeses, crackers, dried fruits, dark chocolate chunks, and dips you’ve ever seen. On the stove was bubbling a rich, hearty beef stew (a family recipe) and next to it a steaming crock pot of spiced apple cider. Be still my heart! This truly set the scene for a hygge party.
Because Maura is a mom herself, and all the ladies at this party were moms, she was very familiar with mom guilt and knew it would be hard for everyone to truly relax without thinking of everything that needed done back at home. So, the second part of this hygge party was making fleece tie blankets for a local organization that donates them to children in foster care. It was the perfect repetitive task (cutting strips of fleece and tying knots in them) to keep our hands busy, but also allow us to focus on the conversations happening in the room. Picture an 1800’s quilting bee with the town ladies gathered in a circle around someone’s living room sharing stories with one another while their hands were busy working on the quilt; that was us! We were still accomplishing a task that would benefit children in need, thus alleviating the mom guilt of not being home doing our own chores around the house. Brilliant idea, Maura! It was the first time in a long time that I felt completely relaxed hygge-style for a few hours. When I returned home, I got back in mom-mode putting the kids to bed and tidying up, but I was in such a happy state of mind doing all of that. It showed me the actual benefit of hyggeness, and I resolved that evening to find a hygge moment in every day, even if it was just closing my eyes and really tasting the initial sip of hot coffee in the morning, while chaos continued around me.