The world can be a hectic place. It’s easy to get swept into a tide of busyness, no matter what your lifestyle. For some, that might be trying to get your foot up on the career ladder, or trying to balance yourself after reaching the top rung. For others, that might be worrying about where your next pay cheque is going to come from at all. For many, it’s looking after three children, trying to navigate a tricky relationship or caring for an unwell parent. For plenty of us, it’s the constant bombardment of information as our social media pings away, seemingly in the background, but never quite out of sight.
Sometimes it feels as though we’re so busy doing that we forget to stop and just appreciate being; sometimes it’s good to just stop and breathe.
Enter the Danes.
Why Denmark, you ask? Funny you should ask. This wee Scandi country is known for many things; its sleek interior designs; its delicious pastries; Lego…My favourite though, and the one I’m going to talk to you about today, is Hygge.
For many people, the word Hygge brings to mind images of comfort; logs crackling happily on a fire; deep, snuggly cushions; candles casting an ambient glow across the room…
It’s true that these are all lovely things, and fit nicely into the Hygge lifestyle, but there’s a little more to it than that, as Meik Wiking explains:
“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
In essence, it’s a way of life. The word Hygge itself comes from a Norwegian word, meaning ‘wellbeing’. Celebrating the things that make you feel good – and yes, cosy from the inside out – is key.
The Danes actively make an effort to place value on the things, places and experiences that can make you feel well. They believe in capturing those moments, and turning them into lifestyle choices. It’s no wonder then, that Denmark is consistently voted the happiest place in the world to live!
After falling just a teeny-weeny bit in love with Copenhagen in 2019, I found my attention piqued by the whole concept of Hygge. After digging a little deeper, I decided to try and incorporate a few of its key elements into my day-to-day route. What surprised me the most is that so many of the techniques are deceptively simple on paper, yet their value has been something I’ve so-often overlooked. Learning to value these things gets to the very crux of mindfulness itself, which is all about allowing yourself to sink deeper into a moment, to reflect upon your surroundings and increase your wellbeing as a result.
Blending a little Hygge into your lifestyle needn’t break the bank or involve a mad-dash home renovation. There are, however, a few simple techniques and items that can help contribute to a happy mind and a happy home. Many of them, you’ll already have tucked away in a cupboard somewhere!
In this post I’m going to talk you through some of the ways you can inject a little Hygge into your morning routine. After all, the way we start our day can set the tone for how we feel and what we can achieve going forward! I should point out that these are just a few suggestions, and needn’t all be followed on the same day, nor will they suit everyone. That being said, it’s worth giving them all a try at some point to see if they resonate and can help guide you towards a happier, cosier start to your day.
#1 Set your alarm a little earlier
Yes, yes, I realise that this post is supposed to be about increasing happiness, and for many people, breaking the pattern of a lie-in would be doing the very antithesis of that. Bear with me.
Giving yourself an extra thirty minutes in the morning can, believe it or not, bring with it many pleasant surprises. For a start, it can help set up a healthy sleeping pattern, which allows the body to properly recuperate after a hard day of thinking and doing. It allows you to appreciate the morning world around you, which often goes unnoticed as we go about our busy routines (seriously, when was the last time you stopped and appreciated the sun rise?). From a practical point of view, it also allows you the time to fit in a few of the other Hygge activities without leaving you feeling rushed for the day ahead. There is no rushing allowed in Hyggetime.
#2 Wake up to a relaxed setting
Never underestimate the value of a cosy bedroom. We spend an average of 8 hours of our daily cycle asleep. That adds up to a third of your life! Why shouldn’t you spend a third of your life in pleasant surroundings?
Keep your bedroom a calm and comforting place by decluttering before you head to bed. Don’t be afraid to invest a little in lovely bedding and sheets that feel good against your skin, and colours which make you happy. Up the comfort-factor with some squishy cushions or a nice knitted throw for the colder months. If you have trouble sleeping, then you might want to try a scented mist for your pillow. Gentle scents like lavender and sandalwood are known for their sleep-inducing powers, but are also lovely to wake up to.
Another thing to consider is how you wake up. There are some pretty brutal alarms out there. Why not check to see if your phone has a more gentle option, like bird song or rainforest sounds? Lumie offer light-up clocks too, which gradually build the light in the room to mimic a sunrise, and to allow your body to wake in a more gradual, natural way.
#3 Put the phone away
For so many of us these days, it’s tempting to reach for our phones before we do anything else. It’s almost as though our bodies have adapted so that our brains immediately tell us we must check for important news, emails or messages before thinking about ourselves. The bright glare from our screens is not only unnatural to our eyes, but the mental draw to check in virtually can also impact our mental wellbeing. Try to avoid looking at your phone for the first thirty minutes of your day. The outside world can wait. This is you time. If you feel you need interaction, keep it human; enjoy a moment of snuggling into your loved one or make a mental list of the five funniest memories you share with your best pals.
#4 Drink something warm
Your body has gone 8 hours without hydration so make sure to start the day with some fluids. Having a warm drink not only keeps the cosy levels high, but it’s also good for the digestive system. Tea or coffee will do the trick, but never underestimate the healing powers of warm water with a drop of honey and a slice of fresh lemon. For the winter months, why not try a homemade chai latte? Here’s a handy wee recipe from The Fresh Cooky:
#5 Read a chapter of a book
One of the biggest traps that we can all fill into in our busy lives is not taking the time to enrich our imagination. One of the most effective ways to do this, going right back to our childhood development, is to read a book. You might feel as though you don’t have the time or mental capacity to add literature into your daily routine, but I promise you, even just ten minutes in the morning will do you good. You don’t have to read anything big and challenging…Nobody’s asking you to read Dostoevsky before breakfast! Light and fluffy will do the trick just fine, but anything that transports you to another place and world is going to stoke the creative fires in your mind, and set you up for any problem-solving which might come your way throughout the day. I find that books with beautiful descriptions of landscape help nourish my mind. Though it can be an emotional read at times, Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun is one of my favourites:
Releasing endorphins is your body’s way of producing happy vibes. A little bit of light exercise is a great way to start the day on a positive note. For some people, that might mean a jog round the park or a pre-work gym session. While those are wonderful things to be able to fit into your day, it’s also great to be able to bring fitness into your home environment too. Create a little workout sanctuary, even if it means agreeing with family or roommates first that the living room is going to be out of bounds for ten minutes. Light a candle or burn some incense to create a relaxing atmosphere. Spend a little time allowing your body to fully wake up by doing some gentle stretches, working your way from your neck down to your toes. Throughout lockdown I’ve been making use of the free tutorials available on Youtube, and I really enjoy Yoga with Kassandra‘s easy-to-follow videos. Here’s a look at her ten minute morning workout:
#7 Have a scented shower
Ahh, the restorative power of water! Who says that a shower has to be purely functional? This is perhaps one of the easiest places we can all start to inject a little Hygge into our days, purely by appreciating the calmness that can come from letting the warm water wash over us, and letting our worries slip away down the drains. There are lots of little things you can do to turn even the teeniest of bathrooms into a temporary oasis. Create some ambient lighting. Pop on some of your favourite, but relaxing music. Treat yourself with some gorgeous scents. Radox have a great range of shower gels which make the most out of essential oils like tingling tea tree or soothing aloe vera. One of my top body washes, however, is Liz Earle‘s Orange Flower Botanical shower gel. The zingy citrus aromas, combined with the natural foaming agents, leave your skin feeling amazing and your mind and body awakened for the day ahead.
#8 Nourish your body
We all know that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, but how many of us actually make a point out of enjoying our morning meal? Even on the busiest of days, try to make time to make a healthy brekkie from scratch. Some of my go-to quick fixes are cinnamon-topped porridge with blueberries, avocado and chilli on a slice of sourdough bread, or scrambled eggs infused with fresh chives, served with smoked salmon on a sesame seed bagel. These can all be whipped up quickly within 5-10 minutes. No matter busy your day, try to take the time to really enjoy every mouthful. Sit down at the table. I tend to find that the nicer the environment, the more likely you are to make use of your space; even the smallest of tables can be brightened up with some patterned plates, cheerful mugs and a wee potted plant.
#9 Tidy for ten minutes
Key to a Hygge Home is a lack of clutter! Try to spend a little bit of time clearing up before you leave the house, even if that’s as simple as making the bed and popping your breakfast dishes away in the dishwasher. It sounds like such a simple thing, but coming home to a messy environment will be the last thing you need after a busy day. Cleaning, even for just a few minutes, increases our productivity, which in turn can make you feel as though you’ve achieved something before you even set foot outside of the door. If you fancy reading more about the link between a tidy home and a happy mind, then you might want to check out Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. If the item doesn’t bring you joy, she argues, it’s time to let it go.
#10 Jot down three important aims for the day
Just as you should declutter your home, so too is it time to empty your mind of excess thoughts. We’re all guilty of overloading ourselves, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the tasks that lie in front of you. Tackle this gently by writing down, either in a journal, or on a post-it note, the three most important things you want or need to achieve that day. My advice would be to limit two of these to practical tasks and keep one for a personal achievement. For example, your practical tasks might be to put the bins out that evening, pay the council tax, book the car in for its MOT or even just to pick up milk on the way home. Your personal aim should be something that makes you feel good about yourself, whether that’s fitting in a much-needed swim, partaking in a random act of kindness for a stranger, or simply taking the time to look in the mirror and say the words “I deserve to feel good about myself”. I think it’s important to keep this 2/1 balance. It’s easy to create an endless list of things which need doing, but by limiting it to two a day, you’ll force yourself to prioritise the most important tasks, and won’t overwhelm yourself with things that can wait until tomorrow. Always, always, leave space for personal fulfilment, no matter how big or small it may seem. You deserve to feel good and accomplished in life, and it’s ok to remind yourself of that. Getting into a regular routine of doing this will reinforce your sense of self-confidence, which is key to wellbeing.
- The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, by Meik Wiking
- The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo
- The Mindful Day, by Laurie J. Cameron
- The Atlas of Happiness, by Helen Russell
- The Outrun, by Amy Liptrot