This week has seen the winter solstice. Winter Solstice is the great stillness before the Sun's strength builds, and days grow longer. It can be a time to rest and reflect.
For today let yourself rest in the peace of darkness, knowing the changing of the season, and the return of brighter days is ahead, be reminded you are always connected to source, and your inner light never dims.
This knowledge is especially relevant today as we will all be spending more time at home this Christmas, with visiting family and Christmas celebrations severely impacted by the latest announcements. But just like the seasons, this is only temporary.
So is it also time we embraced the Scandinavian tradition of hygge?
In the last couple of years (and particularly in the winter months), we're sure you've come across a particular word: Hygge. But what in the world does hygge mean exactly? First, let's start with how you say it.
Pronounced "hoo-ga," this Danish concept cannot be translated to one single word but encompasses a feeling of cosy contentment and wellbeing through enjoying the simple things in life. I've discovered there's much more to it than candles and warm socks.
Last Christmas, as finished off a lovely day spent with family, I sat on the settee under my fleece blanket, wearing a cosy Christmas jumper, my new slipper socks and sipping mulled wine, I thought it all felt very hygge, but was I doing it right?
Hygge means to appreciate the moment you are in, while you are in it. And apparently, it has a lot less to do with candles and blankets than people are led to believe. In her book 'The Essence of Hygge', Bronte Aurell explains how people often confuse the word hygge with the word cosy. Cosiness is mostly defined and created by the material things around you, whereas hygge is an entirely psychological and emotional state.
So you see, while I was comfy on the settee with my blanket, socks and a warm drink, was I immersed in the moment and appreciating the world I had created or was my mind busy thinking about the next day? It seems that no matter how many spices are present in your mulled wine if you're not present to enjoy them, it doesn't count as hygge.
So without blankets, candles, fluffy socks and a crackling fire, how do we achieve this feeling of comfort and joy?
How often have you been so busy taking a photo for social media, or mentally planning what was going to happen next, that you completely forgot to immerse yourself in the moment?
While it's perfectly acceptable to hygge alone, making sure you hygge with those around you (currently in your household or support bubble) is essential. Taking the time to appreciate the pleasant times we spend with others – and also ourselves at times – can really help to boost our wellbeing. It forces us to stop and think, and right now go 'I am in the moment, and I am having a nice time' without any distractions.
According to Bronte, anyone who is rushing through life, and forgets to breathe and appreciate the good times, isn't living in the moment enough. This is beginning to sound a lot like mindfulness and self-care, only wearing a fur-lined bobble hat and woolly socks.
It seems that to bring more hygge into your life, you need to make time for it. Make time for doing nothing but having a nice time. Creating some space, time to relax and allow yourself to be happy, as well as appreciating the people around you and you will inevitably start to relax.
If you can, leave work on time and walk home, take a shortcut through the park and listen to the birds singing. You don't owe anything to anyone once you leave your desk. The same applies if you are currently working from home too. It's just as important to leave your desk and find some precious hygge time.
Unsurprisingly, food and hygge go well together as comfort food can set the scene. The book makes a few suggestions: brunch with friends after a night out or afternoon cuppa with a neighbour. Although these things are not an option right now, think about adding them to your future plans, and enjoy catching up with someone over a WhatsApp's video call with a cuppa and a cookie in hand.
'When we give our time and love, and we share the moment, hygge magically appears between us and allows us to forget about the world outside', says Bronte. 'We remove the outside from the equation by ignoring it, putting the phone in a different room and not watching the news. In hygge, there is no politics, no dangers, no sadness. Only appreciating the people you are sharing the moment with, right there and then. It may only be a lunch break, it may only be an afternoon Fika (sharing a cuppa and something sweet to eat) – but in those pockets of time, both bellies and hearts feel full.'
This Christmas will most likely be very different one to the last one for many of us. Gatherings will be small, hugs are restricted, and the celebrations will be brief. But if the thought of a locked-down Christmas leaves you with a heavy heart, remember hygge is something you can bring with you whatever your plans may be. Even if it's just you, some warm socks and a good book, hygge gifts you with an appreciation for those small comforts you hold close.
You instinctively know how to hygge already, and you don't need anyone to teach you the basics. You just need to be more mindful and create more hygge moments in your life.
1. To create wellbeing, connection and warmth
2. A feeling of belonging to the moment
3. Celebrating the everyday