Christmas… it’s the ultimate time to indulge in hygge, the Danish concept of cozy contentment.
For Scandinavians, Christmas is definitely the most hyggelig time of the year. The food, the friends and family, the simple traditions, the decorations, the candles, the fairy lights. They all blend into a wonderful concoction of coziness.
I’m not Scandinavian, but I’m a strong believer that no matter where you are in the world, you can have a happy hygge Christmas – because hygge is a state of mind.
In a previous post 5 Ways Hygge with Boost your Happiness I looked at how hygge can make you feel happier. How by focusing on the simple things you can boost your feelings of coziness and well-being. This is so important during the festive season because let’s face it, the time leading up to Christmas can sometimes be stressful, and we could all do with a little happiness boost.
During December it can feel like your to-do list suddenly quadruples. There’s the planning, the extra shopping, the cooking, preparing for visits from family or friends or packing and preparing to travel yourself (and all the stress that accompanies that).
If there is a perfect time for indulging in hygge it is now.
During the festive season, hygge can boost your happiness in two important ways.
- Hygge can help you to enjoy the season in a state of content coziness, through being present and enjoying the moment, and not letting time race by in a blur of business.
- Hygge will help you relax and recharge. It’s the perfect way to take some time away from the hustle and bustle and stresses that accompany this time of year.
Here’s how you can have a happy hygge Christmas:
1. Connect with Nature
Spending time in nature makes us happier. Taking the time to get outside and enjoy your natural surroundings, even if it’s just a short walk, will lift your spirits and boost your well-being.
Okay, I’ll admit connecting with nature can be challenging at this time of year. Here in Scotland along with many places in the northern hemisphere, it’s cold, dark and often rainy for most of December. But being outdoors when it’s cold and rainy can make coming indoors feel all the more cozier!
It’s easier to get outside when it’s cold and dark when you can also enjoy the gorgeous displays of Christmas lights. Take a walk around your neighbourhood, or head to into your town or city centre to see the Christmas lights and displays. Christmas lights feel magical, and looking at them can trigger dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical in the brain.
Christmas is also the perfect time to bring nature indoors. Not only by putting up a Christmas tree, but by decorating your home with foliage, greenery, bare branches, berries, holly, pinecones, and wreaths.
Bring the Christmas light magic indoors too with fairy lights and candles. For an extra happiness, boost keep the lights up after Christmas and into the New Year.
2. Connect with Friends and Family
Spending time with the people we love is a major happiness boost, and the festive season is the perfect time for this.
Eating and drinking are an integral part of hygge, and whether it’s the work Christmas party, getting together with friends or the big event on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day there are plenty of opportunities to connect with friends and family over delicious food and drink.
So bring out those favourite family recipes, or perhaps try some new ones.
This year I’m completely in love with two books written by Brontë Aurell, a Danish cook who runs the ScandiKitchen Cafe in London along with her Swedish husband Jonas.
- Scandikitchen Christmas: recipes and traditions from Scandinavia
- Scandikitchen Fika & Hygge: comforting cakes and bakes from Scandinavia with love.
I can’t wait to try out some of the delicious recipes. I’ve particularly got my eye on the one for glögg (pronounced glurrg), a delicious combination of red wine, spices and orange zest. Yum!
3. Slow Down, Be Present & Focus on the Moment
Science has shown that we are happier when we are present. When we are focused on the moment we are in, and not thinking about all the other things that need to be done.
But slowing down can be challenging at this time of year when our schedules are busier and our to-do lists are longer. So how do we actually do it?
Make conscious decisions about how you are going to spend your time and the commitments you make during December. It’s okay not to go to every party or every event you’ve been invited to. Decide want to want to do and don’t feel guilty if you decide you can’t do everything.
Write down all your commitments in a calendar along with all the other things you want or need to do. Getting everything out of your head and onto paper will help you feel calmer. You can focus on tackling one thing at a time and you won’t be constantly thinking ahead or worried that you’ve forgotten something.
Schedule time in your calendar for hygge moments where you can relax and recharge. Don’t let December pass you by in a blur. Whether your favourite thing is relaxing with a book, snuggling up with a Christmas film, baking cookies, or making Christmas crafts, make time to do it, and be sure to savour it.
The thing is, the most important time to slow down is when you are busy. By focusing on doing on one thing at a time, as well as taking breaks for yourself when you need them, you’ll actually be more productive than if you are frantically rushing around trying to multi-task.
4. Practice Gratitude
Being grateful for what you have will make you happier, and Christmas time is the perfect time to enjoy, and be grateful for, all the good things in your life. Our loved ones. The roof over our head, and the food in our cupboards.
It’s not always easy. Often we think that what we have isn’t enough. That we need more. We get caught up in all the over-consumption around Christmas. The idea that we need the latest, greatest thing, a new outfit for every gathering or party, or that we can capture the ‘magic’ by buying more and more decorations or presents.
I’ll admit it, my head can be turned by gorgeous homewares and clothes. There are just so many lovely things in the stores right now.
But I always remind myself, hygge is all about enjoying experiences over things. A hygge Christmas can’t be bought in a shop.
There is no amount of money that you can spend that will increase the hygge-factor – at least not if you are buying anything more expensive than a candleMeik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge
My Christmas mantra is to embrace coziness and contentment, not commercialism.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there is anything wrong with making purchases when they are done with intention. It’s just that I don’t think anyone needs to buy a whole new set of decorations each year to match whatever the department stores are selling as the latest “theme” or “trend.”
Each year, my family visits the Christmas market in Edinburgh and as well as enjoying the delicious food, drink and the gorgeous lights, we choose one or two new Christmas decorations for our tree. We have such an eclectic collection – they don’t “match” or form part of a theme, but to us, they all look great on the tree, and they make us smile when we pull them out of the box each year.
5. Be Kind to Yourself & Others
Christmas is all about peace and goodwill to all. That includes you. You need to take care of yourself – self-care and wellbeing are central tenants of hygge. Give yourself time to do what you need to do to recharge.
Be kind to yourself. Be kind in terms of your expectations for yourself (what you can realistically achieve) and also be kind in the expectations you have of others. Remember we can only control our own actions, not the actions of others.
Let go of ideas of perfection. There is never going to be a ‘perfect’ Christmas – like the ones you see in the ads, or in the movies.
Being kind to others by giving them your undivided attention. Your loved ones want to spend time with you. Give them simple, focused, non-distracted time. Bake some treats and bring out the board games, or watch a film together. Go for a walk and enjoy unhurried conversation.
Above all, at Christmas-time remember to enjoy the simple things.
When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.Bob Hope
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