If Hygge is all about spending time with friends and warming up by the fire with cozy blankets, then it seems like all you need to do is make some tea, light some candles, and invite your friends over, right? Well, not quite. As with any cultural practice, it takes a certain mindset to embrace hygge and get a good understanding of what it’s all about. Hygge is about incorporating experiences into your life, so it’s important to make sure your mindset is in a place that allows this. Before we get into the candles, cashmere sweaters, and spending time with our families, we’ll talk about priming our minds to better recognize and appreciate the value in these small everyday moments.
The many different attempts to define it with brevity all have one thing in common, besides the type of atmosphere it describes (warm, cozy, and comfortable) it’s an action. You create it, you make space for it, you are being conscious about it. There’s something that you’re doing – which is making a conscious choice to create a warm and inviting atmosphere, and invite more gratitude into your life in the process. This consciousness is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is important in embracing hygge because practicing hygge is centered around focusing on the simple things, and for many people, this involves some mental recalibrating.
So what exactly is mindfulness? A lot of books, articles, and blog posts are swirling around about it. It’s a favorite concept for internet listicles and throws pillow embroidery, but what does it mean? Simply put, mindfulness is bringing your attention to the present moment. It’s focusing on your current thoughts, and what is happening in the present. It sounds simple enough, but it can be so easy to let our minds wander. Whether we’re sitting at work and daydreaming about how happy we’ll be when our career is ten years more advanced, or in our workout class and thinking about what to make for dinner, we’re not being mindful. These may seem like minor things, and we’ll all be guilty of it from time to time, but making an effort to be in the present moment and appreciate it for what it is, as it is, is the first step to preparing your perspective for hygge.
It’s important to note that mindfulness and hygge don’t mean you need to be happy or focused on the positive all the time. That’s not a reasonable thing to expect of yourself, because humans naturally experience a spectrum of emotions. The trouble is, we can get bogged down in stress and focusing on too much of the negative, or focusing on things we think will make us happy that, if we pull back the curtain a little, just get in the way of things that will help us find happiness. These next few sections will give you a few tips on how to be mindful and how mindfulness connects to a successful hygge experience.
Consciously Slow down
An important part of embracing hygge – and this is a big one – is letting yourself slow down. In the modern world, it’s no secret that many of us put too much pressure on ourselves. We’re too stressed, overworked, and measure our social status by how busy we are. We can’t or won’t let ourselves just be. We have a difficult time enjoying moments and what is, in my opinion, too much focus on the drive, success, and being as productive as possible have led us to always focus on what’s next, and how we can make our lives and ourselves better. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having goals or planning for the future, but being in a constant state of rush is bad for our mental health and makes it very difficult for us to be present in a given moment.
Be honest about how much time you have. If you envision planning a cozy intimate hygge evening with friends, or spending Sunday mornings in hygge bliss, but are already panicked about when you’ll find the time then this section is definitely for you. If you find that you are often failing to accomplish everything you planned to do in a day, or often feel rushed, recognize that you only have so many hours in a day, and rethink how you plan your day. So it’s Saturday and you wanted to visit your mother, do laundry, get groceries and clean your house. Do you have time for all of those things? Try looking at how much time you tend to give yourself to complete a certain task, double that amount of time and then plan your day. You’ll be surprised by how much more you will accomplish when you are more honest with yourself about your time because you will be able to focus on and finish a few things, rather than half finish several things. You’ll be able to manage your time because you’ll be more accurate about planning your day.
Stop multi-tasking. When you’re doing three different things at once, it feels like you’re accomplishing a lot. But try something for me. Pull out a piece of paper and a timer (there will be one on your phone). Time yourself writing the alphabet, and then writing the numbers 1 – 27 in sequence. Didn’t take too long, right? Now, time yourself alternating between writing the alphabet and the numbers so: a,1, b,2, c,3, etc.
If you did the exercise, you probably noticed it took longer to switch back and forth, didn’t it? The reason is that your brain has to refocus on the new activity every time you switch. So, while it feels like you’re doing more, it takes you more time, and it feels stressful because it’s difficult to focus. Focusing on one task at a time, whether it’s laundry, talking to your spouse, making dinner, or spending time with friends will help you be better focused at any given moment.
All of this slowing down will ultimately give you a feeling of more control over your life and help you be more in the present moment, not just when you are practicing hygge, but when you’re doing anything.
Practice being positive
We’ve all heard the expression – see the glass as half full. It’s a tired, overused cliché, and yet it’s still widely spoken. Why? Because it’s an easy metaphor for how to see the positive in something when you could have just as easily seen the negative. In a world where we’re constantly comparing ourselves to each other, being able to see the positive in a situation can help you to fight off those comparative thoughts that leave you feeling inadequate, always wanting more and ultimately unable to appreciate things as they are.
There is a delicate balance between making an effort to be positive and forcing manic energy on every situation and person around you. If you’re choosing to focus on the positive, practice letting go of the negative things around you, rather than suppressing negativity. If you buy a container of fresh peaches fruit, only to bring it home and find that they’re rotten on the inside, you can focus your mind on being frustrated; go on a mental tirade about how the grocer should be more careful in checking his product, get upset with yourself for not being more diligent, or start getting depressed about the money you wasted. It’s easy, and maybe everything you’re thinking is justified. But, when you hear those thoughts sinking in, try to find the positive anyway; isn’t it lucky you didn’t need them for a particular recipe or special occasion? Maybe learning from this instance will make you remember to double-check for something similar when the stakes are higher. Or these little annoyances are helping you build a tendency towards positivity for bigger events when you’ll need the resiliency. Whether the bad thing was rotten luck or your fault, learning to live in a world that is at times unfair, and learning to forgive ourselves, are both undoubtedly needed to remain positive and open to warmth, gratitude, and appreciation. These little annoyances are just positivity practice, and now that you see them that way, you’ll find yourself a little hopeful for a minor annoyance to come upon you so you can practice your new skill.
Hygge is about seeing the beauty in every day, enjoying ordinary moments and generally being appreciative of the world around you. The more you practice being positive, the easier it will be to enjoy ordinary moments and ordinary things like your living room, à la hygge.