As you all know, I'm a transplant from Bombay, India, where we have two seasons: hot, and the monsoon. The temperature never really drops below 75F, so there's really no reason to have a winter coat. One of my first purchases when I moved to Ohio was a big puffy down parka - it was a great investment. And while I figured out how to stay warm, I struggled with the temperatures being so cold for so long, and struggled even more with the grey days that seemingly stretched on for weeks on end. While I've adapted better over the past 10+ years, I struggle with winter post-holidays - sometimes it feels endless!
I have no plans to leave the northern part of the country any time soon (go North coast!!) so I decided it was time to change my outlook on winter and turned to the happiest country in the world - Denmark, for help. Now Denmark is colder, grayer, and wetter for way longer, and yet, they consistently identify as the happiest people on earth. They have some social and political constructs that contribute to this, but I decided to hone in on their concept of hygge (pronounced hue-guh) - the feeling of coziness and specialness.
I started my research with The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living written by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (talk about the right credentials).
The book is an excellent read, especially for anyone who needs to re-frame their relationship with winter.
And while the book has many excellent tips, I've focused on the my top 5 tips here:
1. Candles: Did you know that Denmark has the highest per-capita consumption of candles that any other country in the world. The Danes are obsessed with light, and the concept of bright, artificial lights is abhorrent to most Danes. The soft glow of candles is a lot more hygge, adding to the warmth and coziness of any room. This is the easiest way to add hygge, and one that I have adopted with full gusto. The Danes recommend unscented candles, which I buy in bulk at IKEA. I also like to have at least one or two scented candles going, and some of my favorites are VOLUSPA, Flores Lane, and locally, Sweet Dish & Darling.
2. Fireplaces: Real is better (we are lucky to have a real, gas-powered fireplace) but if you don't have a real one, you could invest in a faux fireplace heater which will give you a similar effect of both light and warmth.
3. Cozy blankets: These are frankly a must- have, both to keep your heating bill down, but also because they are incredibly hygge, especially if we're talking about a plush faux fur blanket or even better, a hand knit blanket! You could buy a hand knit blanket, but for a more hygge experience, you could enroll in a class to learn how to make your own!
4. Plants: Over the past year, I've addd about 7 plants to our home, and I can honestly say that they add a lot of coziness to our space. You can buy any plant, but I've favored easy plants that don't require a lot of TLC. You can buy houseplants anywhere, but I strongly recommend stopping at a local nursery versus buying them at a big-box home store like Home Depot. You will receive better advice, and frankly your plants will last a lot longer. My favorite local spot in Cleveland is Lakewood Plant Company.
5. Invite friends and family over for dinner: Is there anything cozier than a night in with people you love? Nick and I hosted a series of dinner parties over the past month, each with a different theme. They were an absolute blast, and such a fun way to connect with good friends over a meal. And even though these were very involved dinner parties, they don't have to be! In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I hosted a super low-key weeknight casual get together with 3 dishes, which I cooked after work. And we were done by 9:30 -- so absolutely not disruptive to work schedules. Pot-lucks, soup nights, board-game nights - all easy ways to get friends together for a hygglig night in!
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