Hygge means something different to everyone, but its basis sits very comfortably within being grateful for the everyday moments and enjoying the present.
As the world has been thrust very quickly into a scary, uncertain, and panic-inducing tailspin with COVID-19, hygge is a mindset that is needed now more than ever but can feel almost impossible to achieve.
How are you supposed to feel content when all around you are terrifying news headlines, people panic-buying anything they can get their hands on, and thousands of selfless workers putting themselves at risk for countless others?
I won’t go too deeply into that here, because you don’t really need reminding of that, do you?
But you may be wondering how to embrace the finer things in life right now, and that’s what we’ll explore together.
When I say ‘hygge’ your mind may instantly jump to roaring fires, snuggling under handmade blankets with a cup of hot chocolate without a care in the world.
Traditionally, hygge invokes visions of cozy nights in, laughing with friends over homemade stew and glasses of wine.
In reality, those stereotypical hygge icons come from the chilly winters of Denmark and how hygge helps Danish folks through the harsh seasons, so of course, it makes sense that woolly socks and warm pastries would feature heavily here!
Hygge is an individual experience
The feelings of contentment, comfort, and happiness don’t attach themselves to a certain aesthetic.
In the same way that one person may enjoy spicy food while the other detests it, what makes someone feel happy and satisfied is a very individual thing, influenced even more by the current times and how people individually deal with it.
Personally, one of my most hygge moments of the day is waking up, saying hello to my pets, then making a hot cup of coffee while my hair sticks up at odd angles, and sitting with my husband, chatting about what we dreamt about or what we’ve got planned for the day.
One thing we can all agree on, however, is that focusing on the people around you and feeling grateful for the small, everyday parts of life is the basis of Hygge.
It’s less about excess, rushing through life and showing off, and more about creating a balance that feels comfortable, pleasant, and slower-paced.
Culture of excess
Particularly in the US and UK, there’s a sense that you have to always be working, putting professional goals and accumulation of fancy belongings ahead of the simpler things. We can’t help it — it’s a cultural thing at this point, and when you’re surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues who all live the same way, we don't even realise we’re doing it.
That’s until we start feeling sluggish, stressed out, and irate. Then dump a pandemic on top of that, forcing many of us out of our usual routines and even out of a job, and it’s a recipe for emotional disaster.
While we can’t control everything that’s happening to the world right now, we can choose how we respond to the situation by creating our own hygge in our everyday life.
Self-isolation and Hygge
As millions of us choose, or are told to, self-isolate and distance ourselves from people, it’s created a steep learning curve about how to cope with everyday life.
We can’t stroll to the shop to buy whatever we fancy for dinner.
We can’t hug our family.
We’re no longer travelling to and from our jobs, spending time around people, and every move we make outside our houses has to be calculated carefully to stay safe.
I’ve seen articles, videos, and comments explaining how GREAT this must be for introverts, because ‘we’ve been training our whole lives for this!’, but as an INFJ-T who has worked from home for ten years, I’m still struggling. Everyone is, especially extroverted people who rely so heavily on feeling the energy of other people to feel normal.
So how can hygge help, and how do you embrace it in a time of turmoil?
How to Hygge in Self-Isolation
Schedule time to relax
Blocking out time in your calendar might come across as the least relaxing thing ever, but if you’re so used to cramming as much into your day as possible — even on lockdown, you could still be homeschooling children or juggling other people working from home — making a conscious effort to relax each day is vital.
Hygge takes practice! It shouldn’t be treated as a special event but a way to enhance each day so that each one offers some comfort and distraction.
The way you choose to schedule the relaxation time is totally up to you — some would say to avoid using digital means like Google Calendar, but if it works for you and means you’ll stick to it, go for it!
Keep in touch with friends and family
I originally wanted to call this one ‘video call with friends and family’, but actually while video calling can offer that visual connection of seeing the people you love, you might hate being on camera.
My family has a WhatsApp group where we post photos, memes, and just chat every day. We had it long before the lockdown, but I’m grateful for it. It gives a sense of normality.
While we didn’t see each other every day before we were all confined to our homes, it definitely makes you cherish being able to speak to the people you love.
So video call, phone call, comment on each other’s social media, or use something like WhatsApp to stay connected — but don't feel the need to bring people back into your life because you feel some obligation to in the current situation; toxic people are anti-Hygge.
Continue regular exercise
It’s a common misconception that ‘Hygge’ and ‘overindulgence’ go hand in hand.
While there’s a strong element of comfort in the lifestyle, and baking delicious cakes and treating yourself to your favourite food can 100% be hygge if that’s what makes you happy, hygge is a feeling and again, doesn't come with a list of requirements about what ‘looks’ hygge.
Feeling content also comes from creating a balance and keeping yourself feeling healthy and capable, which is really important when you’re cooped up inside your home.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to go out in nature, do it! If not, then you can easily craft an exercise routine at home. Dance to your favourite songs, follow a YouTube exercise video, play a dance game, or focus on yoga.
Whatever you find fun and not punishing will help you look after your body and mind during self-isolation.
That post-workout glow is definitely hygge!
Spend time in positive online communities
If you’re like me then you already love the power of the internet for its ability to connect people without having to, you know, actually go out and see people.
Never has the sense of community been so strong as now, where Facebook groups, Twitch streams, and Discord communities are welcoming people with open arms.
Whatever your interests, you’ll find a positive group online somewhere where you can hang out with people.
I’m not suggesting you have to be everyone's best friend but even being present for conversations can lift your spirits if you’re feeling lonely. While being alone can be Hygge for introverted people, being lonely is anything but.
Don’t be hard on yourself
Don't buy into the belief that you have to achieve something amazing while you’re in lockdown. It is not a time for kicking things up a gear and being even more productive just because you’re at home and may even be out of work.
The world is changing and it’s okay to just be you for a while. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to do things because you think it’s lazy not to — especially when emotions and mental wellness may be taking a dive.
You are not expected to pretend like everything is okay. It’s not! Take care of yourself. Some days will be better than others, and that’s normal.
Figure out what you find hygge
Normally, you’ll see a list of activities like reading a book, playing a video game, or cook a meal to contribute to your hygge every day, but I don’t really want to do that.
The simple reason is that what is hygge for one person isn’t hygge for another.
Part of embracing hygge is trying out new things to see how they make you feel. That’s what I’d encourage right now — as long as it’s safe and you aren’t doing it because you think you should, then you may discover a little bit of joy in something unexpected.
And if you don’t enjoy an experience? That’s hygge too because you now know what individually works for you!
Make time to laugh
Maybe this one is one of the most important parts of embracing hygge right now because life has suddenly become extremely serious.
While you should always follow common sense advice on keeping yourself and others safe during the pandemic, it’s important to poke fun at life, too, because there are still wonderfully silly things about everyday life that you can, and should, still enjoy.
Stick on your favourite comedy movie, watch a Netflix standup show, play with your kids or your pets and marvel at how silly and totally carefree they can be. Reminisce with friends, binge watch fail videos, or do whatever makes you personally feel better about life, even for a little while.