Embracing Hygge to Enjoy Winter

This post is primarily for readers in the Northern hemisphere. Let’s resolve to survive this winter in good spirits by adopting a hygge lifestyle to embrace the season instead of searching for ways to endure or escape the cold.

When I’m out and about I often hear people talk about how much they hate the cold, the wet, the snow, and the mess.  For them,  the best part of winter is getting away from it all and going somewhere warm. Many of us can’t leave or we choose not to leave the cold weather.  We can take a lesson from Nordic culture and embrace a philosophy known as hygge.

What is hygge?

Hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’) is a Danish word for the quality of coziness that comes from doing simple enjoyable things like staying home or going to small gatherings with family and friends.  In the ambience of soft lighting, comfort foods, warming drinks, and relaxation in front of a fire, the cold months pass enjoyably.

Hygge for a Canadian Winter -- photo courtesy Hygge for a Canadian Winter -- photo courtesy of Kenny Luo on Unsplash
Hygge for a Canadian Winter — photo courtesy of Kenny Luo on Unsplash

A hygge lifestyle encourages relaxation, warmth, and slowing down. There is no rushing to go anywhere or be anywhere. It’s a form of conscious slowing down.

Embracing a Hygge Lifestyle

To enjoy winter in Canada I’m embracing a hygge lifestyle.

I sleep late.  Where I live in Southern Ontario, dawn comes around 8 am at this time of the year. I like to sleep late, awaken naturally, and stay under the warm duvet with a steaming cup of coffee. I listen to the world news and wait for the caffeine to stimulate my brain.

Then it’s off to the gym for exercise — an aquafit or yoga class or some strength training.  Sometimes, a morning walk in the snow. In younger years I looked forward to cross-country skiing or skating to enjoy the outdoors but I’ve given up those sports as I don’t want my titanium hip to dislodge due to a fall or a sports accident. A jolt of exercise in the fresh air invigorates; I envy those who are able to participate in outdoor winter sports.

Hygge means time in the kitchen preparing hearty homecooked meals of root vegetables and meat simmered slowly until flavours blend. One of my favourite appliances in winter is the slow cooker as it allows me to start a meal then abandon it for 7 or 8 hours and find that all I need to do is taste, possibly add more seasonings, and serve. I know people who use a small slow cooker overnight to make steel cut oats; they assemble it before going to bed and wake to perfect porridge, another winter goodie that is dense, warm, and sustaining.

Warm drinks give comfort when coming indoors after braving a cold day.  Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, mulled wine, and spicy hot cider are all on my list.  Warm drinks are best when shared with someone else along with laughter to liven spirits.

Winter food and drink are more enjoyable when shared with friends and family. It might be a gathering in someone’s home with a potluck meal or a gathering in a comfortable pub with the right atmosphere for conversation.  Sharing food and drink enlivens relationships.  The sociability of eating together builds trust.

A true hygge experience on a long winter night might involve soft candlelight and the warmth of a fireplace.   Personally, I like to sit in front of a fireplace and read, knit, or watch something on Netflix.  My ageing eyesight needs more than candlelight for reading or hobbies but I’m conscious of the pleasant atmosphere that candles create at the dinner table.

For some people, hygge means savouring solitude. Winter hibernation need not be restricted to animals.  Humans need quality time alone to restore equilibrium.  Human hibernation is impossible but what’s wrong with dressing in comfy clothes, warm wool socks, and spending a peaceful day reading a good book? Or, succumbing to the desire to slow down on some days and demand less from ourselves?

Afternoon naps are another form of hygge.  There’s a lethargy to winter. Sitting around and feeling unmotivated feels okay; purposeful activity can be left to sunny seasons when energy levels are higher.

The peacefulness and quiet of freshly fallen snow bring a special opportunity for a hygge experience. Hearing the crunch of every footstep while taking an early morning or late night walk through snow-covered streets invigorate both body and soul.

What’s not included in a Hygge Lifestyle

Hygge is not about tackling the ‘to do’ list; it’s about slowing down and relaxing. Productivity aspirations can wait. Demanding high productivity during a time when days are short and light levels are low is unrealistic.

Hygge is not about spending an evening on social media or catching up on emails. Limiting screen time on a phone or tablet frees time for relaxation and real social connection. The harsh backlighting on screens is not relaxing!

Hygge is not about addressing self-improvement goals or acquiring new skills for success. Achieving things you want to achieve can wait for another day. Personal development goals are important.  However, during this dark time of year, it’s rewarding to take time to relax, share experiences with family, and indulge in activities that bring contentment.

Hygge is not about worry over time.  Lazing around and enjoying quiet feelings of contentment should take our full attention. A hygge lifestyle doesn’t need a timer or a watch.

Enjoy Winter 

Hygge is a feeling. It involves slowing down to enjoy the warmth of being with others as well as the contentment of being alone. It’s the comfort and nourishment from rituals of daily living that are made special through attention to the feelings that come from a slow lifestyle.  The winter season brings opportunities staying cozy, sociable and warm.  Embracing a hygge lifestyle is key to making winter a season to love!

Thanks for reading my post. I’m interested in reader’s comments about strategies used to embrace winter.

If you like my postworksavvy blog, please tell your friends about it and consider becoming a subscriber to receive future posts by email.



4 Replies to “Embracing Hygge to Enjoy Winter”

  1. Yes, do like your blog indeed. By it’s very nature winter forces one into a slower lifestyle. However, the car is still on the road every day, if not to a quieter activity such as art or bridge, then it’s to some exercise or other. One of the favourites is being a mall wallet. After several circuits it’s pleasant to stop for a coffee or other hot drink and chat with friends or strangers, who eventually become friends.

    1. I have no doubt that your determination to stay socially engaged with enjoyable activities helps you to stay positive — not only during winter but throughout the year. Your comment about making new friends over coffee makes me remember that our relationship began when you invited me to join you for coffee after a book club meeting. You are the best!

  2. Love this concept. You make it sound wonderful. Here on freezing Minnesota I try to include many of the activities you mention. I especially liked your section on what hygge is NOT.

    1. I believe the Minnesota climate is similar to the climate in the Canadian prairies where I grew up. There were many winter community activities to keep people well-occupied during those long months of cold weather. I remember sunny blue skies with below zero temperatures. Somehow, the sun made the cold easier to bear. I wish you the best in finding a hygge lifestyle and learning to enjoy the season. Stay warm!

I welcome feedback and will reply to your comments!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.