Cultivating health and happiness through the winter

January 2nd, 2019

By Jenn McCallum, GreenUP Coordinator, Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods

As the New Year arrives, school and work will begin anew, but many of us will experience a certain melancholy as we prepare to endure the rest of the cold months ahead.

That melancholy need not define the winter season for us. In Denmark, a more northern country with less daylight in winter, Danes have developed a strategy for staying upbeat during these cold, dark months. They call it hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh”), which roughly translates in English as “coziness” or “hominess.” This is a concept that we Canadians can borrow to increase our health and happiness throughout the winter.

Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. He explains, “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than being about things. It is about being with the people we love, a feeling of home, and a feeling that we are safe and shielded from the world so we can allow ourselves to let our guard down.”

Picture a group of friends or family members sitting at home with the woodstove or fireplace ablaze, reading, playing games, or simply sitting quietly, perhaps drinking tea or hot chocolate. There could be a blizzard outside, but for those inside, there is warmth and safety. According to 71% of Danes, home is the most likely place to experience hygge.

While hygge may be more of a feeling or experience than a tangible object, the Danes have some items and strategies that cultivate hygge. For one, they are especially fond of fireplaces and candles with 30% of Danish homes having fireplaces, and 74% lighting candles at least once a week.

If you don’t have a fireplace in your house, you can easily incorporate candles into your routine to add some hygge. Beeswax candles burn cleaner than other choices, and do not release irritating toxins or fragrances that paraffin candles can contain.

Hot drinks and sweets also have a high association with hygge. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate along with chocolates and cake are high on the list, although these may not align well with your New Year’s resolutions.

To stay on track with your goals and to make healthy, environmental choices, you can reach for socially conscious coffees and organic teas and look for fair trade certified blends. You can also purchase coffee and tea from local roasters and blenders to support members of your community too, which is also quite heart warming.

Nature is another great way to experience hygge. Get out for a walk along the Rotary Greenway Trail or at GreenUP Ecology Park, give bird watching a try, or enjoy caring for pets and houseplants; these activities are known to lift one’s mood.

Wiking writes, “When we are close to nature, we are not engulfed in entertaining electronics or juggling a broad spectrum of options. With hygge there are no luxuries or extravagance, just good company and good conversation; simple, slow, rustic elements are a fast track to hygge.”

Try adding some cedar boughs or dogwood stems as indoor décor that can enhance the hygge of your home. Indeed, hygge can be experienced through all the senses: sights, sounds, textures, tastes, and smells all contribute to a positive atmosphere.

Hygge is something you can personalize, too! Whether you start a journal, sketch, knit, relax in a warm bath, or dive into a good book, the way you hygge is up to you.

“I’ve tried hygge for a couple of winters now,” shares GreenUP Communications and Marketing Specialist, Karen Halley, “I approach it as a way to embrace my tendency to hibernate during the cold months, instead of feeling guilty about it. One of my favourite hygge activities is to enjoy the birds feeding from a window-mounted feeder in my living room, while wrapped up in a cozy blanket with a cup of tea.”

As the holidays come towards a close, with family members heading home and the normal routine restarting again, all is not lost! According to 78% of Danes, hygge can still be done at work. Savour your morning coffee, find meaning and purpose in your work, and appreciate the warm company that your colleagues provide.

If you’re looking for ways to up your hygge game, The GreenUP Store carries a variety of sizes and shapes of beeswax candles starting at just $1.50. Beeswax candles are also often available from local honey vendors, too. We also carry a variety of locally blended and wildcrafted teas by Necessitea, and the Rainforest Alliance Certified, fair trade, organic PTBO Canada Coffee blend by local roaster, Kyoto Coffee, along with sweet treats like local honey and maple syrup, books, and many natural beauty products that are sure to bring relaxation and luxury to your winter.


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