It may seem like you spend plenty of time with your family, however much of that may be consumed by various conversations and actions that are critical to keeping a functioning household running, but may not increase any feeling of hygge. There are seemingly hundreds of chores to be carried out within any family and at times it might seem like the household is more of a highly efficient workplace than a comforting home. Each person has their responsibilities and chores which they carry out efficiently, but not necessarily thinking how these activities might be done a little differently or involving others at the same time.
This post contains habits that are very quick and take a little adjustment to what you might currently do, but are designed to increase the quality of the time that family members spend together. Everyone is still very busy within their own lives, but it can be a relatively easy process to build in some time within schedules for hygge activities and occasions to which every member of the family can look forward and enjoy together.
Agree on TV
Family time together, without any kind of screen, is wonderful but there is no need to be over-zealous with the banning of films or television entirely. Everyone enjoys watching a great movie or a favorite television show and it can spark off some interesting conversations and topics of discussion.
The trick to making it more of a proper hygge experience is to try and make sure that when the television is on, that everyone is there and enjoying what is on. The worst scenario is that everyone disappears into separate rooms to watch their show at different times, providing no single point of reference for future conversations or shared memory.
To work this out, you can spend five minutes as a family agrees on what can be watched together. The program listings can generally be found online or in a newspaper or if you have access to services like Netflix you can have a quick scroll through the suggested items and see what it comes up with. There may have to be a few compromises here and there, but considering the wealth of television that is on offer these days, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with one or two shows that all the family will watch.
Many programs operate on multiple levels appealing to both children and adults alike, so everyone will be able to enjoy them. Recent examples for our family have been any movie from Disney / Pixar which can operate on multiple levels, appealing to both children and adults alike for different reasons.
Taking the time out together to agree on what will be watched and noting down the times so everyone is aware of the programs is a great way to compromise a little on the screen time and will also add in a sense of anticipation for the date. Add in some candles and hot chocolate for that extra hit of hygge!
You can always play a game with children for a quick break. Gather them around the table, provide them with a slice of cake, and play a quick game such as Snap, Hangman, I Spy, memory games, Charades, or 20 Questions. You will quickly find they become used to the routine of being together at a set time, and it enables you to connect and talk to each other at various points during the day.
Children are great at inventing their games as well. Ask them to come up with a game of their own and explain the rules. This is a great way to get them involved and engage their imagination.
Another fun activity you can do with children is to grab a coloring book for you to do while the children complete an easier one. Adult coloring books have proved very popular over the past couple of years and can help to lower stress and relax you. While concentrating on coloring, you remove the focus from everyday stresses and concerns. This is not dissimilar to what happens when you meditate or simply sit peacefully in a quiet room.
When you color in with your children, it’s another activity that is away from screens and involves you discussing colors, using logic to work out the best choice, seeing patterns, and generally being creative together. It’s a great way to connect and can be a wonderful, hygge habit.
Laughter is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make your life less stressful and more hyggeligt. It gets your heart pumping, reduces tension, and releases endorphins into the body.
You can find laughter in some places. The first of these is everyday life. Be on the watch for amusing things – it is surprising how much you will see when you deliberately start to look out for it. Trying not to take life overly seriously and being able to laugh at yourself will enable you to find humor wherever you are.
Secondly, you can find humor by searching for it. Potential locations include websites, books, magazines, cartoons, short videos, or emails. Discovering a comedian or a book that you find funny will give you a chance for a quick burst of laughter wherever you are. One of my favorite books of all time is Catch 22 by Joseph Heller which is a true comic work of genius. I have multiple copies of it at home and work and have given a copy to all my friends and family. Even when I think of it now, it brings a smile to my face and makes me feel good. If you can find something similar, then you will be able to bring humor and laughter into your life easily and make the day a little more hyggeligt.
We also tend to find more humor and laughter when together with people in social situations. Telling stories to friends, even (or perhaps especially) at your own expense, can be a great way to give everyone a chance to laugh. It will also give you something else to remember next time you are reminiscing about the gathering and laugh at again.
One of the funny things about laughter is that even forced laughter has numerous benefits. Even making yourself laugh, without finding anything amusing in particular, can bring health benefits. Try it yourself now – just smile and then laugh for 10 to 20 seconds.
You may well feel a little stress relief, a little boost to your day. We can trick our bodies into making us feel more relaxed and better by fake laughter, even if it’s not the real thing. You will often find that your fake laughter very quickly gives way to real laughter, which may explain why we get the benefits no matter what kind of laughter we indulge in.
Turn off screens
It is amazing how much of our lives is dominated by screens of one type or another. From the large television you may have at home to your computer monitor at work to the ever-present cell phone in your pocket, we have become accustomed to having information and entertainment at our fingertips at all times.
Unfortunately, this ease of access to information can often come at the expense of time spent with real people in real life, as well as having adverse medical effects. Numerous studies are showing that excessive screen time affects sleep patterns and subsequently focus and attention at school or work.
Too much screen time can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle which has its resulting health problems. Vision can be impaired from gazing at a small screen for too long with inadequate breaks. There can be further medical issues with joints in the fingers or repetitive motion syndrome. On a social level, people can become less able to interact in real life, preferring instead the relative anonymity of online communications.
Having a period in your day and the family’s day where you can insist on no screen time at all is critical. Start with just five minutes. Insist that everyone, children and adults, have put down their electronic devices and that the television is off. You could also specify that devices are banned from certain rooms entirely.
Once you have established this rule, you will find that people are more willing to engage in conversation and effective communication, especially children who are quite happy to talk about their day and their achievements when given a proper platform to do so. This allows everyone to share in each other’s lives, perhaps over a cup of tea and a biscuit, or over dinner together at the table for longer periods.
Giving a focus to this conversation lends its importance and will prioritize this period for the entire family. Even if it is only for five minutes at a time, it is invaluable for strengthening family bonds and friendships.
Schedule a family meal
Take five minutes to ensure that you can hold a family meal where everyone can get together. Getting many people around the same table at the same time is often difficult, especially as children grow older and have various school or social commitments of their own. However, it is important to try and establish a time when everyone can meet to have a chat and share a meal, even if it’s not going to happen every day.
One effective way of checking times is to set up a calendar where everyone can add their regular dates and times of various commitments. This can be done online but is equally effective with a large wall calendar that can be updated. Once you have a night established, then let everyone know so each person is aware of the time and place.
I am a great fan of theme nights as well (e.g. pasta night or taco night or pizza night) which makes the dinner special. Another way of arranging the menu is to make a list of the top 20 family favorite meals. This way you know something can be cooked that will be popular with everyone.
As well as the time spent eating the meal, the time spent preparing it can also be important. Arrange for different people to make their contributions – possibly an entire course, but even if they are just in the kitchen helping, then that will mean everyone is working well together. Allocate tasks beforehand, so everyone is clear where their responsibilities lie.
If you wanted to make it even more of a social occasion now and then, you could also invite your neighbors. Perhaps make an ongoing arrangement where you all pitch in and cook something for each other once a month.
By spending less than five minutes arranging a meal together, which everyone will enjoy, you create the opportunity for a lovely dinner, as well as the anticipation of the meal. This is a great way to get everyone together to share a meal and connect over good food and drink.
Food and drink and eating meals together are very important for hygge, however, the making of the meal can be just as important as its consumption. When you are cooking with others, you are focused, you are following instructions on a recipe and you can teach children about measurements and weights and ingredients. It’s a great learning experience and is also tremendous fun to do together – kids generally adore cooking, especially if you are making something they find delicious.
Recipes don’t have to belong and complex to taste good – a five-minute recipe can be made at any time with the minimum of fuss. Look for recipes with few ingredients that require very little cooking. Despite the short timeframe, you can make some wonderful delicacies that the whole family will enjoy as well as being a little quirky and different.
One example I make is the cake in a mug. There are lots of different recipes for various flavors, but if chocolate is the fancy of the day, then try this. Add three tablespoons of flour, two tablespoons of sugar, two tablespoons of cocoa powder and half a teaspoon of baking powder into a microwave-safe mug. Mix and then add three tablespoons of milk, three tablespoons of vegetable oil and if you want to go the extra mile, some chocolate chips. Stir it all again and then pop it into the microwave for 90 seconds. Voila! The five-minute chocolate cake!
Here’s another favorite which can take even less time. Take a banana and slice it lengthways, almost all the way through. Add chocolate chips down the middle and whatever else you fancy. Wrap the banana in aluminum foil and place it in the pre-heated oven for five minutes or until the chocolate has melted. You can also grill it if you prefer. Add a little cream or ice-cream for a lovely treat that takes barely any time to prepare.
You will no doubt be able to create your own, personalized favorites but there are many other different five minute recipes you can make with the minimum of fuss. This is a great hygge activity for the entire family and will quickly turn from a habit into a tradition. We tend to do a lot of our baking on a Saturday afternoon and it becomes a little period of the week to which everyone looks forward.
You can fit the five-minute bake in whenever you have the time and it is a hygge habit that the entire family will truly savor. You can even get your adult guests to give it a go and bake their desert when they come for dinner!