The hustle and bustle of the holiday season are upon us, and with it comes overscheduling, overeating, overindulging, and overspending. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to find the right gifts, get the holiday cards out on time, turn out picture-perfect meals, and create a holiday atmosphere worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting. Add all the parties and family obligations to the mix, and It’s no wonder that the magic and joy of the season can get lost in the shuffle. If you find yourself burned out, stressed out, and running on empty this season, maybe it’s time to trade the holiday hustle for some holiday hygge.
Haven’t heard of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga)? It’s the hottest thing to come out of Denmark since Viggo Mortensen, and it has caught on in the U.S. in a big way over the past couple of years. And while we’ve turned it into a home decorating trend on our Pinterest boards, hygge is so much more than thick, wooly blankets, flannel PJs, and mugs of hot tea. Yes, those things can bring about hygge, but they are only part of the bigger picture, one that author Meik Wiking describes as a vibe.
In The Little Book of Hygge, he writes, “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.” And while you can experience that feeling any time of year, it is most commonly associated with the long, cold, dark winter months. Specifically, the holidays. According to visitdenmark.com, the Danes consider Christmas to be the “high season of hygge,” and they pull out all the stops to create a sense of coziness and well-being.
You don’t have to be Danish to bring hygge to your holidays. You simply have to surround yourself with the things that bring you “tidings of comfort and joy.” Think of it as the ultimate act of self-care. The act of filling your soul with those intangible things that make you feel like all is right with the world. Nat King Cole may have said it best when he sang about chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose. It’s a feeling of contentment that is often lacking in our oh-so-busy lives as we chase bigger, better, and more. And while you can’t force hygge into being, you can cultivate it through intentional practices like these:
Few things cause more stress than holiday shopping. We spend a lot of time and a lot more money trying to find those “wow” gifts for everyone on our lists. And while there is plenty of joy in finding that perfect gift for someone special, there is also joy in simply giving someone the gift of your time and attention. Being present is more important than giving elaborate, expensive presents. Tune out all the social media, e-mails, and texts this season, and tune in to your family and friends. Focus your efforts on making memories, not posting them.
Holiday happy hours, the annual office party, neighborhood cookie exchanges, and more can fill up our calendars but empty our cups. You do not have to say “yes” to every holiday happening you are invited to, nor do you need to explain your “no.” A simple “I’m sorry I can’t make it this year” will suffice. By clearing your calendar of the chaos or the things that drain your energy, you create more time for the things you enjoy.
We spend so much time taking care of others’ needs during the holidays we often forget to take care of ourselves. Schedule time for yourself, whether that’s snuggled up under a warm blanket watching your favorite holiday movie, taking a drive to look at holiday lights, or sitting in front of a roaring fire with a cup of cocoa. Taking some alone time is not selfish. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
How can you feel calm and happy when all around you things are disorganized and jumbled? Make your home warm and welcoming this season by only displaying items that bring you a sense of peace or joy. Favorite decorations, big fluffy throws, overstuffed pillows, aromatic candles, twinkling lights, and greenery can all create a soothing ambiance for a home that feels like a hug when you walk through the door.
The smell of warm cookies baking. The taste of smooth, creamy eggnog. The sight of a table laden with delicious holiday treats. These are all part of the holiday experience. Don’t worry about whether or not everything is Martha Stewart-worthy. If toffee made from crackers (if you know, you know) is what makes your mouth water, then get out the box of saltines and get to work! What matters is the experience of enjoying the flavors you love, the memories they evoke, and sharing those memories and experiences with others.
Hygge is not hard to achieve. Once you notice the things that create that warm vibe in your life, you will begin to make a conscious effort to cultivate more of them. Give yourself permission to say “no” to the things that pull you away from what matters this season. Then learn to say “yes,” to the moments and experiences that result in feelings of contentment. When you make the essence of hygge a habit, it will soon become a way of life.
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