One of the principal features of hygge is the concept of friendship and social interaction, a feeling of belonging, and in a wider sense being part of a community that looks after each other. We all know how easy it can be to let friendships slide due to the stresses of too much work or simply feeling tired at the end of a busy working week. Before too long, it has been a couple of months or more since you met with people, purely for social reasons, and this can lead to an increased feeling of loneliness and isolation.
This idea of social interaction can be with both local friends and neighbors, but it shouldn’t exclude friends who have moved away. Maintaining those close ties is important, both for you and your friends, and making a little effort to stay in touch will allow you and them to feel good. It will remind them that they are still important and that you care about them.
The following quick and easy hygge habits will enable you to build and strengthen those ties of friendship that add so much to our lives. Try and build them into your weekly routine, make the activities into a habit, and see how they bring about the positive feelings from hygge, both for you and your friends.
Call A Friend
One easy way to stay in touch is through a quick phone call. A lot of people end up putting this off because they feel they don’t have the time or the energy to indulge in a long chat. However, this doesn’t need to be an hour-long conversation. A quick call can be just as effective to show that you are still thinking of friends of the family even in their absence. Set aside a good five minutes of your time to make the call. Don’t try and complete other tasks at the same time – make the call worthwhile and valuable by giving up a little of your own time. By making the effort to call, you are reminding them they are still important and that you care.
This is an easy step to take that takes very little time, but can be most effective at re-establishing and reaffirming links with friends or family you don’t see all the time. Try and build it into your week so you can chat with one person you haven’t spoken to in a while. See how the conversation goes and where it leads to in strengthening links. You can always follow it up with a quick card to say how great it was to hear from them again and arrange a time to meet in person next time they’re around.
Send a postcard
Another easy way to stay in contact with friends who have moved away is simply to send a quick postcard. It doesn’t have to be a purchased card. You will often find free cards at various cafes or museums or shops. I always take one from my local cinema which likes to advertise their coming movies with a free postcard. If I see a film that I know a friend would have loved to have seen, I write down a few words and send it off.
The effect of this is that it shows I’m thinking of him or her, that I remember previous shared experiences and enjoyable times and that I’ve given up a little of my time to make the effort. Getting a letter through the post, addressed to you that isn’t a bill or junk mail, is still a little pleasure for most people. If they have kids, you can address it to them as well, as they are normally delighted to receive a letter.
A written letter lacks the immediacy of an email but has more of an emotional impact. Imagine how pleased you would be to get a letter from a friend or family member who has moved away but still often thinks of you. This is an extremely simple activity that takes even less than five minutes, but can have a powerful effect and will bring hygge into the life of both you as the sender and that of your recipient.
Arrange a meeting
Take two or three minutes to arrange some kind of meeting with friends from a group of friends. The easiest way to do this is probably through your cell phone with either an SMS message or if you have apps such as WhatsApp you can arrange to meet as a group. This way everyone in the group can see your messages and reply to everyone at the same time.
Set up a specific time and date to meet and have a coffee or a meal or go see a movie. Set the date a couple of weeks away so everyone has adequate time to make childcare provision or check their diary. This should take no more than five minutes to arrange. You now have the added pleasure of being able to look forward to the meeting and then catching up with friends.
Most of the time, you will find people are eager to meet up but end up putting it off for one reason or another. If you can take the initiative and spend five minutes arranging the date, you will find everyone grateful for your actions.
Send a thank-you card
If you’ve shared dinner at a friend’s house, then take five minutes just to send a quick thank you card. These days, the written card seems to slowly disappear, however whenever I have received one, it’s been something I’ve cherished.
A thank you note doesn’t have to be a massive letter. Just jot down your thoughts expressing your gratitude for the evening’s hospitality and send it off. You don’t need to use any kind of formal language. Anything that is a genuine expression of thanks is perfect.
Thank you letters can be very simple. Start with thank you for dinner / your kind gift / whatever it is. Then add a sentence explaining why you enjoyed the meal or the gift (it was wonderful to catch up and hear your news). Finally, add a sentence about meeting up again in the not too distant future. For example, you could invite your friends to dinner at your own house the following month. You could put an invitation down to have a coffee out at that café you talked about over dinner.
Hygge is all about cementing relationships and solidifying social cohesion. A quick thank you card allows you to keep communication open, as well as showing that you care enough to go to the bother of writing things down on paper and sending a letter. It’s a quick and easy way to keep friendships alive and strong.
Perhaps hygge is not about being abstemious or denying yourself things that are going to make you happy, so it is important, that you can apply this equally to food as to other areas of life. If you are out with a friend, a slice of chocolate cake as a treat, for example, could be the perfect hygge pick-me-up. A five-minute slice of deliciousness, a little taste of chocolatey heaven, can go a long way.
Enjoying food, truly savoring it, is important. You don’t need to go crazy, but having a slice of cake as a conscious treat for yourself is fine. Indeed, recent research has concluded that continually depriving yourself of what you desperately crave will not help you lose weight. In the end, your willpower will dip and you will end up binge eating on the forbidden food. Having a little treat when you want one will aid in sticking to a reasonable eating plan.
Do a quiz
Another five-minute activity that can promote hygge in some ways is to have a brief period in the day when you can complete a small puzzle. This could be anything from a quick crossword to a word or number game, or perhaps a general knowledge quiz of ten questions.
I once worked at a packaging design company for two years when I first started my career. Every working day at 10:45 in the morning, there would be a meeting spot where four or five of us would convene and complete a short quiz in the newspaper over a cup of coffee.
It gave us a chance to meet, get to know each other, make friends and it became an opportunity to take our minds off the current work. In addition to that, we also learned a lot about each other – as well as a wealth of general knowledge. Even now, I remain in contact with many of the friends I made there and although we live a long way apart, we continue to make the effort to stay in touch.
A simple, but a regular meeting to complete a puzzle or a quiz, unrelated to work, will give you a chance to exercise your brain differently as well as to share a laugh and a break with friends. Even if you just do it by yourself, it will remain something to look forward to, something fun to anticipate each day and provide a welcome break from the task you may have been carrying out.
I’m the first to admit my voice is not great by any means, however, I love singing along to a tune that is playing on the radio or from my music collection. The great news is that singing is not only fun but releases endorphins which reduce your stress level and can increase self-esteem. Besides, the act of singing releases oxytocin which is a stress-reliever. Singing is a great exercise that has the added benefit of increasing oxygen levels as well as improving your posture as you need to stand up straight to get air into the diaphragm.
The opportunities for singing probably come along more than you think. You could sing along in the car or even in the shower or at home as you are listening to music. If you are with friends in a group out or at home, a sing-along with karaoke can be great fun.
If you want to take it a step further, you can also sing in groups such as organized choirs which will give you another chance to meet people, increase your confidence, and make friends. Singing together is, unsurprisingly, a very popular activity in Denmark. Rest assured that you don’t have to be a wonderful singer to reap all the benefits that singing brings. Give it a go and you will be surprised how good you feel with each tune you blast out.
Perhaps if you’re at work then flinging yourself around the office might not be the most immediate route to promotion, but if you’re alone or with those you feel comfortable, then indulging in a short five-minute dance might be the best thing you do all day. It’s no surprise that both singing and dancing are core fundamentals of Danish culture and social gatherings.
Dancing to your favorite tune is a tremendous form of exercise, that will get both your heart pumping and improve your aerobic fitness as well. It will also resonate on a more emotional level, with various studies showing that dancing, in all its various forms, can reduce anxiety and stress and boost self-esteem. We dance because it feels good. You can try it with some headphones on or just turn up your favorite song and dance away.
If you have a longer, then dancing is a great way to forge social connections as well – either with a partner or more generally with a wider group of people. Dancing with other people, all to the same beat is a great way for everybody to connect and interact.
Build five minutes into your day to take a quick dance, alone or with another person, and you will find it a most enjoyable way to build up fitness and release all forms of stress.
Play an instrument
If you are singing and dancing either by yourself or together with friends, then the final step is to play the instrument yourself! Listening to and making music is a great work out for your brain. You need to read the notes, translate the music on the page into physical action, and then try and lend an emotional interpretation of your own to the music.
It requires focus and concentration and will enable you to put aside the stresses and concerns of the day just for a short period. As well as being relaxing it helps with memory, logic, and your speed of thinking. It is also ideally suited to frequent, short periods of activity so by indulging in five minutes a day solid practice you can see some impressive improvement quite rapidly.
This can be a lovely thing to do together as a group, especially after dinner, with a warm drink and with everyone in generally good spirits. Having everyone sing along to a tune, while you are accompanying on the piano or the violin or the saxophone, is a great way to entertain and make all your audience become active participants. The whole process strengthens ties and aids with communication. It is also, quite simply, great fun.