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14 Day Winter Hygge Challenge

Winter is here to stay… at least up in the Canadian great white north it is! So it’s the perfect time to plan out how you want to spend this season. Will you grumble your way through the cold OR will you embrace the opportunity to introduce more HYGGE (living intentionally with inner comfort, clarity & connection) into your lives?

Learn some ways to bring HYGGE into your home, work and personal lives with this 14 Day Challenge… you don’t need to be from Denmark to feel HYGGE! Take the tips from the challenge, implement the ideas throughout the winter and find out why Denmark is ranked year after year as one of the happiest countries in the world!

Buy or Borrow Hygge Inspired Books

Hygge – a Danish word that means ‘coziness’ – Hygge helps us to stay mindful, to slow down and to have gratitude for all that we already have. Winter is a great time to practice hygge especially with the dark days, so snuggling up with a hot tea and a hygge book can encourage you to stay cozy throughout this cold season.

Here is my favourite list of Hygge books to checkout (all are on Amazon, local bookstores or check out your favourite library).

  1. The Hygge Life – Embracing the Nordic Art of Coziness Through Recipes, Entertaining, Decorating, Simple Rituals, and Family Traditions by Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Jody Eddy @jodyeddy
  2. How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen @signesjohansen
  3. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking @thelittlebookofhygge @meikwiking
  4. The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen @anupartanen
  5. The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer: 10 Easy Tips For a Happier, Healthier Life by Bertil Marklund @bertilmarklundfrf

Hygge Your Surroundings

The main idea of hygge decor is to create a calm, comfortable space that is free of clutter.

Below are 3 simple tips to try.

DECLUTTER

A clutter free home will help reduce stress as you will not be worried about a messy space. Start with one space at a time. A great rule to live by, is to always ask yourself “does this bring me joy?” … if not, donate or repurpose it. Think “less is more”.

BRING ON THE ATMOSPHERE

Think of cozy ultra-plush blankets, high quality ❈comforters, beautiful soft throw pillows, fluffy doormats and floor rugs. While there are so many beautiful high-end items to look at, they don’t need to be budget breaking. There are always great DIY projects you can start or take a trip to IKEA (which is the mothership of all things Scandinavian). There are loads of hygge inspired items. As for colours, think neutrals: soft blues, greys, browns & creams … they help create a calming feel as opposed to overly stimulating bright bold colors. Introducing texture to your living space is a great way to add some hygge. You can do this by incorporating warm, natural materials like wood and wool to your decor.

TURN YOUR BATHROOM INTO A SPA

You can easily make your bathroom a spa sanctuary. Add a fluffy floor mat, calming art on the walls, extra-large fluffy towels to wrap yourself in, an ultra-plush robe and slippers, DIY bath salts or body soap infused with calming essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus …take a bath or hot shower and add some candles … download spa music and have that playing softly … just enjoy it all.

Bring Nature Indoors

An integral part of hygge is acknowledging the need to add more nature and natural elements into your life. You can accomplish this by bringing nature indoors. “Bringing the outdoors into your home can be as simple as decorating with wreaths, branches, fresh flowers, bowls of fruit, or living green plants. If you’re keeping a Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush in your home, that’s hygge too—especially if it’s warmly lit up!” .

CREATE AN INDOOR GARDEN ROOM

Garden rooms can help you through the winter by creating a work space for some indoor gardening. If you are tight on space, designating a table or small space could work well. My garden room has rows of shelves with grow lamps hanging to start my vegetable seedlings indoors throughout the winter. l love getting my hands in the soil.

With a work table and supplies, you can also create indoor herb boxes, terrariums, floral arrangements and just about anything.

INDOOR PLANTS

Hygge is all about bringing the nature indoors (especially during frosty winter months). Indoor plants provide connection to the outdoors through those months when we are mostly snuggled inside. The act of nurturing plants can make you happier by contributing to an overall sense of wellbeing.

Plants also freshen the air by absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen, making your home a healthier space. Ferns, Aloe, Spider plant, Snake plant, Golden pothos, English ivy, Red-edged dracaena, Weeping fig, Chinese evergreen…. are some good ones to start with.

NATURE INSPIRED ART

Wall art/photos with scenes of nature, trees, snow, lakes, mountains, deer’s and others of the kind can help to cozy up your space while also bringing a touch of the outdoors in.

Try framing dried herbs, leaves, flowers and fronds using a flower press and make a DIY wall collage.

THINK BEYOND THE GREEN

You can also add natural objects such as a collection of drift wood, shells, fire logs, pinecones, rocks or pebbles and beautiful leaves …could look beautiful as hygge décor.

Dress Cozy and Get Outside!

I am Canadian, not Danish, but I know the meaning of -40 winters! Living a hygge lifestyle means being outdoors, often, no matter the weather which reminds me of the quote “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” … so, if you live in the arctic circle (like I sometimes feel I do), then invest in proper winter gear and get outside! In How to Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living, author Signe Johansen states: “Outdoor adventures in the wild, being in touch with nature, are instead at the heart of hygge as a concept.”

Hygge is a real mindset of welcoming (and accepting) the season by spending time outdoors for a winter walk/hike in a beautiful forested area, tobogganing, skating, snowman building, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing, Nordic walking, bonfires in the snow … then heading back inside to enjoy the warmth and relaxation that will follow. Getting outside each day adds to the cozy experience and you’ll feel energized, rejuvenated, one with nature, which makes it easier to feel calm at home with a hot cup of cocoa.

For me, my winter hygge moments come through trekking in the forested areas near my home. I look forward to breathing in the crisp cold air and feeling gratitude for this time outside; it offers an opportunity to drink in the beauty of the trees covered in snow, looking out for the variety of wildlife crossing my path and being either quiet in my thoughts or enjoying the conversation with others. Mostly, I love the way I feel when I’m back in a warm home, feeling refreshed and relaxed. Stress of the day is gone leaving me with a greater sense of calm.

For many of us the cold is here, for a while, so we can either choose to fight it or we can take the path of hygge and embrace it and enjoy the beauty this season brings. Take the challenge and get outside daily during this winter season.

Plan Technology-Free Days or Evenings

“Hygge in its simplest form is really about being present…” however, with the presence of screens in all forms, it’s becoming critical to master the art of unplugging and doing a digital detox. This is extremely difficult to do since we are so addicted to checking our emails, texts and social media. The concern however, is that there is a worldwide population who are feeling lonelier, depressed and desperately needing to connect with an actual human being, more so now than ever before. Hygge is key in the remedy to this growing issue.

Ideas to explore this winter:

TAKE UP A NEW HOBBY

Taking up new hobbies provides you the ability to switch off and refocus the mind on the new skill. Turning your screens off will open the world of possibilities on hobbies such as: knitting, painting, sculpting, reading, photography, baking, fermenting, ice-fishing and really anything. Whatever you choose, keep your screens off and observe how mindful you’ll be when you aren’t distracted by the sound of your devices ringing.

HYGGE GAME NIGHT

An essential part of hygge is playing games as it brings people together for serious laughs and good memories. For myself, getting together with friends for a games night is my ultimate Saturday night hygge. Consider getting your family and friends together for a New Year’s Eve Game Night (as I am) and serve up warm stews, yummy beverages and tons of candles to set the hygge vibe. One game I have is called the Hygge Game @hyggegames and highly recommend checking out the variety they offer. Other games like charades, Win Lose or Draw to really anything will do.

HYGGE MOVIE NIGHT

Despite it taking place on a screen, The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking recommends getting on Netflix and chilling; cuddling up and watching a movie is very hygge—especially if you’re cozy under a blanket and enjoying a bowl of popcorn, licorice (very Danish) and a hot cup of cocoa. Better yet, dress in your pjs, woolies and light a few candles or build a fire and no phones.

Cook New Comfort Food Recipes and Invite Friends Over

Denmark, the motherland of Hygge, is consistently ranked in the top 10 of happiness studies, despite long dark winters. Let’s borrow their hygge secrets and host your own comfort food hygge dinner party. The holidays are a natural time for all things hygge already so why not plan something in February or March when the winter is taking a toll. This will provide you with something to look forward to and will encourage you to read more on hygge as you scheme and dream up recipes, candles and the like.

Invite over your favourite friends and follow these tips on how to have the ultimate cozy evening:

❈ Keep it simple and have a potluck

❈ Keep it intimate – there is no need for a large crowd

❈ Plan some games – choose ones that evoke laughter – a hearty belly laugh is very hygge

❈ Create a great hygge playlist – Spotify has some excellent ones

❈ Stock up on candles and fire logs – keep the house cozy and dimly light

❈ If an option, set up a bonfire out back and sip warm drinks around the fire

❈ Make it a “cozy attire” party – wear fluffy socks and comfortable clothing

❈ Go skiing, snowshoeing or skating first – sets the feel for that “après ski” vibe

KEEP THE FOOD RUSTIC

“Champagne and oysters may be many things,” says Meik Wiking, master Hygge maven.., “but hygge is not one of them. Hygge is humble and slow. Make the menu rustic and simple over posh and pretentious.” What food would you crave after a cold day of skating or sledding? The ones that makes you feel warm and cozy? Think of soups, stews, and hearty dishes like beef stroganoff with roasted root vegetables. You can also plan a hygge theme full-on with a Danish-inspired dinner.

Also … don’t forget to fill a crock pot with spiced mulled wine, homemade cocoa with a liqueur or apple cider.

Remember, you don’t need to strive for perfection, that isn’t very hygge. Just enjoy yourself to the fullest!

Get Cozy with Dim Lighting & Candles

CANDLES ARE TO HYGGE, AS SNOW IS TO SKIING

According to Meik Wiking “No recipe for hygge is complete without candles. When Danes are asked what they most associate with hygge, an overwhelming 85 percent will mention candles”. The Danes aim for the soft morning glow that can wash through your home at sunrise and at sunset. Candles provide natural light, it makes us feel better than an electric light. A simple way to deal with this is candles.

The Danish obsession with lighting is because they don’t get much contact with the natural world in the winter months. Mood problems, SAD & winter go hand in hand but what we can learn from the Danes, is that if you make the atmosphere of your rooms cozy then winter becomes pleasurable.

WHAT TYPE OF CANDLES

Danes prefer natural and organic candles, ideally candles that use a cotton or paper wick, and are either unscented or scented with essential oils. The candles themselves should be made with 100 percent soy, beeswax, coconut wax, hemp oil, or some combination that doesn’t contain any paraffin. I love the Batsu candle from @mysacandlecompanyas it reminds me of being at a Nordic spa with the smell from the eucalyptus essential oil. I also love the Campfire candle from @farmerssonco with its bonfire aroma.

LIGHTING IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF CREATING A SENSE OF HYGGE

Meik Wiking, also says: “Lighting is not just about candles. Danes are obsessed by lighting in general… Danes select lamps carefully and place them strategically to create soothing pools of light.”

Lighting can impact how you feel within your home and you can change your mood simply by dimming the lights or changing the tone or colour of your lights.

Some ideas to add hygge lighting:

Using floor and table lamps instead of overhead lighting

Install warm coloured light bulbs instead of the ultra-bright ones

Dimmers create warm light

Use Fairy Lights

Use a Himalayan salt lamp to create a soft glow

Practice Mindfulness Everyday

To hygge you need to slow down, be mindful and take it all in. Hygge is a mindfulness practice that focuses on providing you a sense of “inner comfort, clarity and connection.” Take the time to really enjoy the chai latte you have made, stay an extra ten minutes in the bath and enjoy the snuggles with loved ones.

Mindfulness also allows us to be aware of our surroundings and emotions. When we are mindful, we are more aware of the things that make us happy. Ultimately, when we successfully cultivate mindfulness, we are one step closer to living a happier life.

Hygge is the epitome of slow living and mindfulness.

Examples for practicing mindfulness to evoke a feeling of hygge: (may require more research to learn how you can embrace each one)

Mindful Meditation: Develops your concentration to focus on what is present in the moment which includes: breathing, body scan, loving-kindness and observing-thoughts. Mindful meditation has been shown to be an effective technique to manage anxiety and depression.

Mindful Journaling: A journal is a wonderful way to record all the things that are good in your life right now. Journaling allows you to frame the day and finish it on a positive note. It can help you set out your intentions as well.

Mindful Eating: Don’t just stuff food down your mouth and rush your meals. Savour the flavours of the food. Be mindful of the textures. And turn off the screens while you eat.

Mindful Consumerism: Ask yourself, “is this a want or a need”? Treating ourselves occasionally is always a nice way to evoke some hygge. But be mindfully aware of too much consumerism – think “less is more”.

Mindful Movement: Movement and exercise are also cornerstones of mindfulness so when you are, pay attention to how you feel, don’t rush, breathe deeply, keep your phone away and do what you love. Walking, yoga, barre, Pilates, tennis, dancing etc.

Give to those in need

Sharing, being kind, and caring about others is another way to start bringing more hygge into our lives. To achieve this we need to start by being kinder to ourselves. This is not about being selfish. When we are kind to ourselves can we show genuine loving kindness to others.

Too many people experience loneliness and suffering – elderly people who have no families, people with disabilities that are socially isolated, the homeless who have nowhere to go, babies in NICU who need support, abandoned or abused animals with no home to live, refugees who have escaped terror without the comfort of family around them. If we all come together as a community, we can have our share in helping the world become a happier and more caring place.

Does generosity make us a happier world?

It’s official: generosity makes us happier, even in small doses. “Just the very act of promising to be more generous is enough to trigger a boost in our brain’s altruistic and happiness areas”, a recent study explains. There are too many ways to list in a short post but there are umpteen ideas to give back in the form of the gift of time, the gift of volunteering, the gift of sharing and the gift of money.

Why giving back is important for you and the world around you:

❈ It creates a feeling of gratitude

❈ Giving encourages a culture of giving

❈ Strengthens communities and nations

❈ Alleviates poverty, struggling and suffering

❈ It helps you to share resources

❈ Creates a nation of emotionally aware people

❈ Provides people with the building blocks for their future development

❈ You will grow as a person

❈ Enjoy the Health Benefits of Giving Back

❈ It feels good to give

How can you be a more generous person? What are some great random acts of kindness we can do? Share your stories of generosity with us.

Create a cozy nook, or hyggekrog, in your home

Most Danes report experiencing the most hygge at home, according to Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge. Wiking says that every house needs a “hyggekrog,” essentially a cozy nook where you can snuggle in with a good book and a favourite hot drink. He has his hyggekrog by the kitchen window. “It is the place in the room where you love to snuggle up in a blanket with a book and a cup of tea. Your hyggekrog does not need to be by the window, however, even though that is really hyggeligt” says Wiking.

Essentially, a cozy hygge nook is a place to relax or watch the world go by… to create this, cozy up a space with blankets, soft cushions, plants, dim lighting, candles and all your favourite books. You also don’t need to go overboard with this idea and you don’t need to dedicate an entire room for this, just the corner of a room will do. The most important thing is that you create a space that suits your relaxation style. In my house, I have a comfy chair, a foot stool/ottoman, a dimly lit lamp, a big window and a throw blanket. It’s become a coveted spot in our home.

As well, your hyggekrog doesn’t need to be inside. If it’s the weather is good, you can create a space in your yard, your garden, on a deck … anywhere that provides you a feeling of security and comfort.

“By the way there is no obligation to read in your hyggekrog. You may want to knit, or journal, or listen to music, do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku, or just relax and enjoy some quiet moments. It is understood that while you are relaxing and recharging, your cell phone might want to find a hyggekrog of its own to recharge” says Mary Hirsch, of Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplaces.

Bring hygge to work

Hygge in the office or your place of work? Can it really make for a more relaxed, productive workplace? The Danes seem to think so, as data collected by Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute reveals that 78% of Danish workers value a safe, cozy and casual atmosphere in the office, and they agree that the concept of hygge should be in evident in the office; applying the principles of hygge could improve working life.

Here’s how to ‘hygge’ your work day:

YOUR DESK

If you’re going to be at your desk for most of your waking hours, you may as well make your desk space as warm and welcoming as possible. .
Bring a mug from home – Drinking out of your favourite mug is like having a piece of home with you. Keep plenty of tea on hand.

Decorate your space – from pictures of your family to a bouquet of flowers to some plants. If candles are allowed, light a small unscented candle at your desk just for the glow. You can make your office feel more like home with artwork and sentimental items from your personal life. A lamp with soft lighting can help to counter those fluorescents.

YOUR LUNCH BREAK

Stepping away yourself from your desk could be one of the most beneficial hygge workplace moves you make; regular, non-frantic lunch breaks should be a high priority for us, as hard as it may be.

Host a potluck with co-workers – Comfort food is the source of all things hygge, and what better way to enjoy time together with home-cooked meals?

Don’t check email or stare at your computer while eating – if it’s nice outside, get some fresh air. Walk to the nearest coffeeshop or enjoy your lunch on a bench somewhere close by. Getting outdoors will help lift your spirits and give you a boost of energy.

YOUR COMMUTE

Traffic, detours and bad drivers can make you feel like a nervous wreck. Make it entertaining and productive by listening to podcasts, music and audiobooks.

Also, very hyggeligt, do random acts of kindness for your co-workers. Simply lending a compliment to a co-worker, you can turn someone’s entire day around just by being kind.

Plan Cozy “Me” Days

It may seem impossible with all you have on the go but taking time to renew and recharge is a good investment that pays real returns. Everybody needs a break from the demands of daily living. Downtime is important. Don’t think of it as self-indulgent… think of it as self-preservation. Giving yourself permission to slow down and relax for a few moments a day, or a few hours each week, will help you gain a fresh outlook and a renewed sense of perspective.

While being at work, with family and other social engagements are a priority, so is unwinding with alone time. It may seem obvious but spending time on self-care and relaxation really does ease your levels of stress. It’s like the saying goes “secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person” … In short, put our own life mask on before giving thought to assisting others, ME TIME will help!

ME TIME isn’t something to just be dreamed about. It’s not a pie in the sky idea only for the select few that don’t have any commitments”. It’s real. It’s necessary. And it’s possible!

Ideas to get you started:

❈ Go to the movies with your best friend or alone. Have popcorn.

❈ Write something. A journal, or blog entry.

❈ Take a long hot bath with essential oil infused salts, soft music, candles…

❈ Go for a nature walk, bike or hike. Bring your fur baby.

❈ Take a nap. A real nap… Get in bed, under the covers.

❈ Catch up on your reading. Maybe a hygge book in the mix.

❈ Reconnect with a friend. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

❈ Get crafty. Try a craft or DIY project you’ve been putting off forever.

❈ Try yoga. Stretch yourself.

❈ Get a pedicure or do a DIY one!

❈ Watch something at home. A movie, TV show, whatever!

❈ Check out Antique shops! Even if you don’t find anything, it can be a blast to browse.

❈ Try a new recipe.

❈ Go MIA. Don’t take any calls (unless it’s an emergency, of course).

❈ Get a massage. It will be the most relaxing 60 minutes of your day!

OR… Do nothing. (Yes, it’s really ok…)

Make DIY Holiday Gifts & Handwrite Holiday Cards

There’s Nothing Like a Handmade Gift and a Handwritten Card from a Loved One!

You can make your life more Hygge through the wonder of crafting, DIY gift making and letter writing. The purpose in giving handmade gifts is to give something that is personal and individual to the person receiving the gift. You might not always save money (bonus if you do), but you give a particularly meaningful gift.

Why go DIY & Handmade?

They are one of a kind. They are made with love. They are personal. They are fun to make. They may save money. They are hygge.

There are so many amazing hygge inspired ideas, but I have carefully curated a selection of my top 30.

Have fun…

❈ Homemade Vapor Rub Scented Candles

❈ Pine Forest Water Colours

❈ Dip Dyed Wall Hangings

❈ Mason Jar Oil Candle Lamps

❈ Faux Birch Bark Vases

❈ Winter Ice Light Catchers

❈ Starburst Twig Wreaths

❈ Paper Baubles Decorations

❈ Extra Chunky Gratitude Blanket

❈ Hygge Mug Cozy

❈ Pine Cone Candle Wreath

❈ Paper-cutting Candle Landscape

❈ Jumper-Sweater Cushion Cover

❈ Handmade Lavender Sachets

❈ Bath Salts

❈ Gifts in A Jar

❈ Rose Hibiscus Whipped Body Butter

❈ Air Plant Pots

❈ Love Coupon Booklets

❈ Rosemary Grapefruit Candle

❈ Dip Dyed Woven Baskets

❈ Pumpkin Spice Sugar Lip Scrub

❈ Home Brewed Beer

❈ BBQ Spice & Salt Blends

❈ Homemade Beard Oil

❈ Handmade Beef Jerky

❈ Sweater Pouf Ottoman

❈ Knit Potholders

❈ Fermented Vegetables

To receive a PDF with the links, please email jill@hyggecanada.com

Hygge & Our Fur Babies

As a concept, hygge, is incredibly pet-friendly, no matter the animal. Pet ownership is undoubtedly one of the greatest pleasures in life, providing companionship, cuddles, licks and laughs. It is no surprise that so many of us have a pet in our lives; not only are animals fantastic company, but they also teach us compassion and offer unconditional love. Being close to animals can make such a positive impact on our lives.

Animals are natural mood enahancers

Pet owners are generally happier, not as lonely, and tend to be more trusting. Companion pets can also give you a sense of meaning and boost your self-esteem, and they provide you with positive mental energy, by raising serotonin and dopamine levels while decreasing cortisol, just from playing or having a snuggle session.

Animals are good for your heart

There is a link between having a pet around, especially dogs, with a reduced risk for heart disease and greater longevity. Findings with heart-related studies on people who have pets, showed that pet owners had decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels which minimizes risk of a heart attack in the future.

Animals help fight depression and soothe stress

The feeling of “man’s best friend” tucked up against your feet is guaranteed to help one feel at ease, so it may come as no surprise that pets can help to alleviate stress and anxiety. Gently petting an animal can help to relax and reduce stress levels in both the human and animal. It is believed that an animal’s heart rate slows down, and blood pressure drops along with people because of the release of oxytocin, a hormone linked to emotional bonding.

Animals get you to interact with other people

Pets can help you with your social life! This is particularly true with dog parents due to going out on walks and playing at the public park. People seem to be more inclined to talk if you have a dog with you and the topic of dogs is an excellent icebreaker for conversation starters.