Let’s Practice Hygge while we Hunker DownPosted: April 2, 2020
Now that we are all practicing “Social Distancing”, a term that will become synonymous with paranoia, uncertainty, solidarity, and a slower pace of life, there seems no better time to become more familiar with the beloved practice of Hygge. The Danish people, world-renown for their statistically consistent happiness, follow this tradition, and in these unsettling and stressful times, I don’t know about y’all, but I am looking to the experts. I became fascinated with Denmark when I was 8 years old and saw a photo of the Little Mermaid statue (Den Lille Havfrue) by the shore in Copenhagen. As fate would have it, I met, and married, a sailor who works for a Danish company, its headquarters located a stone’s throw from her beatific gaze. After my husband traveled to Copenhagen for work, we spent several vacations there, charmed by the beauty and culture of the city, and even more so, by the attitudes and energy of its people. Danish children were so well-behaved, that after our first visit I immediately purchased a copy of The Danish Way of Parenting (by Jessica Joelle Alexander & Iben Dissing Sandahl), and it has become a handbook of mine in my work as a nanny and my life as a mama. I became fascinated with all things Danish, so Hygge: “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”, was the next big blip on my radar.
My trick for remembering how to properly pronounce Hygge is to sing the intro to the 1968 diddy Hooked on a Feeling:
“Hoo-gah(Cha-ca), HOO-GAH, HOO-GAH, HOO-GAH (Cha-ca)…”
which is, ironically, sung by a Swede… My tips and tricks for how to incorporate Hygge into our hunker-down are as follows…
Put your phone down. I don’t know how many times I have made excuses for having my phone constantly on, and in, hand. “I need it for the clock.” “My camera is on it.” “I need it for music.” I was clocking 5 hours of daily screen time one week into quarantine, and I wondered, “How?” I have made a conscious effort to treat my phone as a landline and keep it plugged into the wall to be checked at certain times of the day, not constantly available. When you are truly hands-free, you are more engaged in the moment which allows for deep breaths and true enjoyment of time with your family.
Analog whenever possible. In our home we have record players, both upstairs and down, and it really slows down the frenetic pace of instant gratification. You can’t hurry up a record. Our music selections are more thoughtful and we take time as a family to pick what we will be listening to for the next half-full hour. Records are quality time because the ritual of loading and playing a record is narrated by someone saying why they love the album, the first time he/she heard it, etc. It becomes a sharing of memories. And for added Hygge quality, the tactile nature of vinyl, sleeves, liner notes, all the art inside, is something you just can’t get from a digital download’s thumbnail.
I also love my mini polaroid camera. I use it when we (used to) have visitors (when I remember, #mombrain = zero polaroids from first six months of my child’s life) to our home, and special occasions like birthday parties for my kiddo. The polaroids themselves are precious because the actual moment is captured in a tangible, fragile form, which makes it more special somehow. And come on y’all, sepia tones totally vibe with Hygge.
Make reading nooks! Stack some books, pile some pillows, settle in and read. Together or parallel with your partner, kiddos, family. Talk to each other about what you are reading and what you like best about it. Share something from your minds. Come up with reading themes for each day. Just yesterday we did books about animal babies, today books about Easter!
Keep your home fresh! Let’s face it. We are all tiring of our surroundings no matter how much pride we take in our home. And sedentary life dulls the spaces around us that we usually love. I make a simple fabric spray: 1 part rubbing alcohol, 9 parts water, 3-10 drops lavender oil, poured into a spray bottle. I collect lavender oil on trips and every time I spray my sheets, couches, rugs, I recall where I bought the blue-tinted glass vials of lavender-y lovely. Keeping our homes sanitary and pleasantly scented can help lift mood and revitalize our homes!
Game Night is On. Break out the board games, card games, puzzles, dominoes, and tic-tac-toe. Or with any chalkboard/easel/dry erase board play Pictionary or for older kiddos, charades! Your family will look forward to working and playing together at the end of a day of home schooling/working from home.
Pitchin’ in = Peace. For all of y’all with kiddos home from school and idle hands, start working together to share the meal and cleaning responsibilities. Children as young as five can be relied upon to make lunches or help with meal planning and chores around the house. Let movie night or game night be a reward for emptying trash cans or bringing in dirty clothes to the laundry room. When given a task that contributes to the family, children find purpose and feel less bored. The family working as a unit is oh so Hyggelig(Hygge-like), and forms habits that will benefit y’all long after quarantine is finished.
Outside is NOT canceled. Have a picnic on your porch! It will save you the usual clean-up; toss crumbs to the birds! Take the time to look and listen to the world around you, and your place in it. The sacrifices we are making to stay home will benefit our loved ones, neighbors, and strangers we will never meet. What a special moment in human history to anonymously care for one another!
I hope you all find cozy moments of clarity, however brief, amidst the endless news cycles and constant unknowns. The Danes are onto something with a simple appreciation of detail. Hygge is a return to focusing on your home, and those at the heart of it.