Wikipedia defines hygge as “a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.” It’s a Danish word, and no good equivalent seems to exist in American English. Maybe that’s because we invented the rat race, and the two are diametrically opposed.
According to HyggeHouse.com, hygge involves living life at a slower pace and adopting an emphasis on mindfulness, something that’s often lacking in our modern society. When you’re in a state of hygge, you’re not worrying about the future or fretting over the past, and you’re surely not racing around with a million things on your mind.
To be hygge is to simply be, which is perhaps what Shakespeare had in mind when he asked that most famous of questions: To be or not to be? Though when you’re hygge, you probably aren’t being philosophical. Knowing that you exist and enjoying the subtle nuances of that existence are enough.
We Americans could use more hygge in our lives, particularly in the cold season, when sunshine feels like a rare luxury. So, let’s take a look at some ways all of us, and especially baby boomers can embrace this simplest of philosophies for better winter wellness.
Be Mindful in All That You Do and Grateful for What You Have
Mindfulness for Seniors defines mindfulness as, “a basic human quality, a way of learning to pay wise attention to whatever is happening in the present moment,” and a great way of achieving mindfulness is through meditation.
Think about a cold, snowy day. You gaze out the window at the falling snow. To be mindful is to only observe and enjoy. However, what most of us do instead is entertain a bunch of correlating thoughts that go something like this:
- Oh no — now I’ll have to shovel the drive.
- Because I have to go to the grocery store.
- To buy what again?
- Oh yes, now I remember, some ingredients for supper.
- Gosh, I could eat right now.
- I wonder what’s in the fridge.
On and on we go. After a few moments, we usually can’t even remember our train of thoughts and have difficulty tracing them back to a starting point. The problem is, there really is no beginning nor an end — just a cycle of self-talk that those being truly mindful seek to eliminate.
Andy Puddicombe, in this TEDSalon Talk in 2012, says all it takes is 10 mindful minutes to produce profound mental and emotional benefits ― like an increase in focus, calm, and clarity ― and advocates we humans do more of nothing. We live from one distraction to the next, and one thought to the next, when simply doing nothing is so much more beneficial.
To be hygge is also to be grateful for what you have. Baby Boomer Bliss says this about hygge and its relationship to happiness: “Happiness has less to do with money and success and more to do with spirituality, our relationship with others, gratitude, a giving attitude, and being present and mindful.”
When we are more grateful for what we have and adopt more of a giving attitude, this invites more good into our lives. For those thinking the concept of gratitude is too new age, there is actually a science to back up its extraordinary effects.
Enjoy the Little Things
HyggeHouse.com continues on to say, “Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness.”
We tend to think of life as existing only in the big moments: a party here, a celebration there, that one vacation we allow ourselves each year. So much more of life exists outside of that. If we learn to embrace those times and the little things they offer, we can turn that boredom and that sameness into special moments.
Achieving hygge is dependent upon individual preference, and for some that will include investing in a fireplace to cozy up to with a hot drink and a good book. The smell of freshly brewed coffee is another simple way to get into the hygge state. Or enjoying the glow from a candle and how it dances to the rhythm of a leisurely gust of wind blowing through the room.
Hygge is also about feeling your best. How about some aromatherapy to go with those candles? Lavender oil is one of the easiest oils to start with as it has many uses and benefits, including better mental well-being, improved sleep, and relief from headaches and pain.
Baby boomers who realize that life is lived mostly in these moments and can learn to really appreciate them will know true wellness in any season. After all, little things are life.
Slow Down, De-Stress and Be Well
Part of hygge, as the Danes know well, is incorporating more simplicity into your life. When things get complicated, they become stressed. When life moves too fast, we feel rushed and stressed.
HyggeHouse.com also says, “By creating simple rituals without effort the Danes see both the domestic and personal life as an art form and not every drudgery to get away from.”
A big part of hygge involves spending quality time with loved ones, preferably doing things like taking a walk in nature. Maybe it’s time to ditch the gym and get outdoors more.
Simple rituals are key to achieving hygge, like walking in nature with loved ones, feeling cozy in your favorite sweater, enjoying a funny moment with friends, and the smell of freshly-baked pastries, whether from your own kitchen or the bakery down the road.
These things make up the great bulk of life. They’re not distractions while we wait for life to happen in the bigger moments. Seniors have more time than most of us to enjoy these moments, and really that’s a great gift, once you begin to see it that way.
So, light that candle, brew that coffee, stare at the falling snow, experience the simple joy of being alive and present at the moment, and be grateful for it all. Enjoy being hygge, and thank the Danes while you are.
Have you embraced the concept of Hygge? Please tell us about it by leaving a comment below.