Hygge (hoog-ah) is the Danish notion “to be cosy.” The Danes do this really well, with candles lining the snowy streets, a history of furniture, design and architecture - not to mention their wholesome view towards everyday living.
But Hygge really means much more than that- it's really more of a feeling than anything else! I have always identified with the need to create beautiful spaces to work with in, to relax in and to share with others- environmental psychology, I call it. A couple of years ago, when I came across the concept of hygge, it became apparent that I was adding these ‘hyggelig’ moments to my every day experience.
I guess it is another way of experiencing life mindfully, making moments meaningful and slowing down. Whether it is creating a nice space to read, sitting by candle light to drinking a cup pf tea, watching the kettle boil or setting a beautiful table to enjoy a meal with friends.
Our society is “go go go” all the time, this is something that already has a terrible effect the adult population, but we are now encouraging our children to do “more more more” all the time. I am discovering that people are finding it harder to relax and just be! There is always a device in hand, a chore to do or no separation between work life and home.
So this idea of environmental psychology or hygge - as coined by the Danes, has me thinking how this could translate into my work, for families and even for children themselves.
Slow down, simplify!
First and foremost - slow down and simplify. Honestly, I really do feel we have lost the ability to- just be. To lay down in a park and just listen to the birds or the wind sway with no real direction. To curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book as the rain pitter patters on the tin roof. We are constantly plugged in - to emails, tv shows, text messages, phone calls, facebook, instagram and gaming devices. We can be contacted 24/7 by anyone and everyone - and although we have the option to leave our devices elsewhere - they are now found at dinner tables and catch up’s with friends. We have really lost sight of being here and now in the moment, choosing the virtual world/identity over our real lives.
I think the tools to be able to simplify are especially important for this generation of children, who are surrounded with experiences as mentioned above. Providing opportunities for them to connect with themselves, family, friends and nature - are of up most importance. Apply the concept - less is more. Less activities in the day - provide for quality experiences, less toys provide for real engagement with the experience.
"The faster we live, the less emotion we have in the world. The slower we live, the deeper we feel the world around us" - Stanko Abadzic
-picnic lunches/ dinners
-making the time for long and leisurely family dinners or breakfasts (sunday roast or weekend waffle breakfast)
-spending time in nature with out toys/gadgets
-trying not to interrupt play
-provide the time for children to complete tasks, be that breakfast, bath time and play - rather than rushing experiences
There is soooo much research into the importance and beauty of fort/cubby play for children. In fact I am preparing another blog on it’s purpose. but from the perspective of hygge moments - it is the ultimate expression of childhood comfort and hours (or days) of entertainment. Full of soft furnishings, dark and cosy in the winter or the sway of lighter materials out side in the summer. Yes you can buy some really beautiful pre made tee pees - but the process of building and creating your own space is very special where children are able to hide and be independent away from the adult world.
-in the summer hang light materials from a tree with cushions inside for comfort
-cubby building with large branches, sticks and leaves
-blankets and sheets over couches and chairs for cosy inside spaces
-build for a movie night or to read inside with a flash light
-hang battery fairy lights for light and ambience
This is one opportunity you have every day to create a hygge moment. We all have things that relax us, comfort us or just make us feel good. I have always noticed that I sleep the best when I have taken the time to wind down properly. Aiming not to watch tv or reply to work emails for the hour before bed- there is a fair amount of research into the ‘blue light’ omitted by electronic devices that disrupts sleep patterns. This is the same for children. I appreciate it can be a rush with after school pick up, to get home, eat and get ready for bed. And for some families it may not be possible to achieve a full routine every day. So possibly have a long and short version that you can adapt to. A daily routine helps the mind and body prepare for relaxation, just as the act as cues for babies.
-dim lighting/candle light/fairy lights/lamps
-bath time rituals
-essential oils for calming - oil burner/defuser/massage/bath
-warm milk and spices
-bed time stories
-cosy bedroom (trying to keep this space a simple as possibly so as to not over stimulate the mind)
Traditions and Rituals
Carrying on from routines - are traditions and rituals. These don’t have to be only set aside for Christmas and birthdays. But can become things that happen more regularly. Be it baking cinnamon buns as a family on Saturday, a big lunch in the garden on the 1st of every month or camping every May. I believe that there is something in humans that have a craving for traditions.
In a busy family dynamic, this might provide the opportunity to have something weekly to look forward to and connect. To really take the time to appreciate one another. But you also might create these for yourself. For me, I often work late, so I don’t often have the opportunity for a bath - so I make sure on a Sunday night before the week commences I run a hot bath, turn off the lights, light candles and add essential oils to the water and just soak away any thoughts and feelings.
“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things.” ― Muriel Barbery
-planned holidays (this might be going to the same place each year or always taking ‘June’ off)
Embrace the weather
This is a concept the Danes also do well! Particularly surrounding the idea of no such thing as bad weather! Enjoy the weather for what it is! Each are filled with opportunities for wholesome experiences! Be it making daisy chains in the summer, jumping in piles of leaves in the autumn, hot chocolate in winter or laying in the grass in spring. Spring and summer don’t seem to be as hard for people to accept - the sun and vitamin d naturally lift ones mood so we are kind of prepared for anything during that time of the year. The winter can be a little more difficult - be the pouring rain, the cold wind or lack of day light. I have found since changing my mind set about the colder months - it is actually quite a beautiful time for adventure and exploration.
-explore forests, creeks, rock pools (rug up in the winter)
-Camping - campfires - hot chocolate - toasting marshmallows
-set up a campfire in the back yard ( lots of contained fire pits available)
-Fort/ cubby building
-cooking on an open fire
-Dinner in the garden
-invest in weather appropriate clothing
-Celebrate seasonal change
"There is no such thing as bad weather - just inappropriate clothing"
I genuinely enjoy setting the table for dinner, breakfasts lunches. Be it just for myself, the children I work with, for friends or for a quiet dinner with my partner. For me it is a chance for me to exert some creativity - again the idea of ‘environmental psychology’ comes into play. Not only is the process of setting cathartic for me - but the end result becomes a living art insulation as people interact with in the environment. It is an opportunity to set a tone, ambiance and good feelings.
I think children appreciate aesthetic beauty and environmental psychology more than we sometimes give them credit for. It also provides an opportunity for children to be apart of the process of dinner/dinning - by being apart of the process they are more likely to be share holders in the experience.
Some inspiration -
-pick some flowers for the table centre (have the children do this - this could become a daily/weekly ritual)
-light candles for ambience
-children could set the cutlery and crockery (make the precess special rather than a ‘chore’)
-table clothes and furnishings
Baking and cooking together as a family (when allowing ample time) can be a relaxing and scent evoking experience. I know I keep mentioning cinnamon buns (obsessed after my trip to Scandinavia!) but it is my favourite thing to bake! I love the whole process of the dough rising and the smell of yeast - to the scent of the cinnamon and cardamon warming in the oven as they bake. And on cold days the way the windows fog up and you just feel your insides being hugged by the experience! It's my ultimate hygge!
-be organise before you start - so it can be a relaxing experience
-Bake/cook as a family (could even be a way to prepare some food for the week)
-invite friends over for afternoon tea for fresh baked goods
- I especially find the scent of anything with spices particularly relaxing - could be a reminder of childhood memories of Christmas? but you may have other things that are comforting or that you like
- Fresh bread / damper, a big pot of soup / stew, pie etc.
Woodfires and Campfire
There is something almost tribal about the idea of sitting around a crackling fire - when educated properly, about safety in this environment - campfires are a wonderful opportunity for education and (safe) risk taking for children. I have such nostalgic memories of sitting around a fire while camping as a child, drinking warm drinks, toasting marshmallows on sticks, finding the perfect stick for toasting, the heavenly scent of the fire all over your clothing and listening to the hum of adults talking, singing and guitar playing. Indoor wood fires are also something that I long for - again providing for the same kind of ambience, wholesome relaxing experience and delicious scent! But also the cosy memories of being freshly bathed and running to the heater in the nude (sadly we just had one of those 60's gas ones) and drying before dressing into pj's.
"Researchers hypothesize that when we're sitting fireside, all of our senses become absorbed in the experience. Having a calming focus of attention.." Christopher Lynn
-cooking dinner as a family on the fire in the yard (could become a tradition)
-camping trip around the fire
-campfire parties (could be a nice way to welcome winter!)
-Board games and stories by the fire
This is probably one of the most important parts of creating a hygge space. Lighting sets the scene and the tone of the environment. Hyggelig spaces, particularly in the winter months are all inspired by dim lighting. This tends to relax our bodies and puts our minds at ease. This is particularly important in the evening moving towards sleep routines - but also a great resource for when the children's or your own energy is high (be that stressed, anxious or excited). Lower the lighting - lower the energy!
Beautifully designed spaces are what Scandinavia is most famous for - from furniture, architecture and furnishings. Ikea might have had a little to do with this world wide wish for a Nordic inspired home! But the combination of their beautiful 'things' and their enchantment with happiness in simple pleasures - they really know how to create a cosy space. I guess this is really a combination of all of the ideas mentioned above.
-Book corners/nooks with cushions or couches
-blankets and pillows
“Hygge has been called everything from “the art of creating intimacy,” “coziness of the soul,” and “the absence of annoyance,” to “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,” “cozy togetherness,” and my personal favourite, “cocoa by candlelight”.” ― Meik Wiking,
Hygge will look different and be experienced differently by different people. We are all relaxed and centred by differing experiences. I really do believe that the Danes are onto something - the idea of living with intention, simply, inspired by happiness, sensory experiences and loving people.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!