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We’re getting into the thick of the winter season, and even if we weren’t already staying at home, we’d still be bundling up and hunkering down against the long, cold nights. Due to social distancing, perhaps this winter is less cozy and more isolating compared to previous years. Especially with school starting up again, the stress of our daily lives can make winter look rather bleak and depressing for all of us.

Luckily, the Danish have come up with the perfect remedy: Hygge. Pronounced hoo-guh, it is a Danish word used to describe that cozy feeling you get from curling up with a warm blanket and a nice hot beverage. Hygge evokes a feeling of contentment, which I appreciate because we can’t always feel happy or worry-free, but we can help ourselves feel warm and safe in our environment to the best of our ability. In other words, it’s something we can control to make us feel better, rather than waiting around for the feelings of anxiety and unease to fade.

So, how can you channel Hygge? I already mentioned blankets and hot beverages, but you truly don’t need anything extra to channel Hygge in your life. Sometimes it’s just making time for yourself. Maybe that means getting up half an hour earlier so you can slowly sip your morning coffee before class, or commit to unwinding an hour before bed — no studying or social media allowed. Maybe it’s even giving yourself permission to lay in bed and feel content and warm in your blanket cocoon. I feel like this form of relaxation is a type of mindfulness that doesn’t require meditation, because instead of the difficult task of letting your anxious thoughts go, you’re crowding out those negative thoughts with comforting sensations, pulling attention from the mind to the body.

If you want to take your Hygge up a notch, you could also spend some time preparing the right vibes for your space. Things like candles, soft lighting, calming music, and a comforting meal can really enhance your Hygge wintertime. Taking some time to clean your space beforehand can help you feel refreshed, and even something as simple as putting your laptop and schoolwork out of sight can help re-home your space. Out of sight, out of mind — that is what we’re trying to get at here.

If you’re still struggling with the idea of putting aside time to relax, a simple activity you already enjoy can lead you in the right direction. I enjoy channeling my inner five-year-old and coloring in coloring books, or if I’m feeling more sophisticated, reading a good murder mystery. The idea here is to aim for activities that engage you without demanding a lot of energy: think taking a leisurely walk, not high-intensity interval training.

There is something to say about the aesthetics of Hygge. After all, Scandinavian interior design has been having its moment for a good reason. Our environment can have a big impact on our mood, but if it’s out of your control to decorate your entire living space in all-white while accenting with ferns, that’s okay. As I said, Hygge is about the feeling when you get down to it, and in whatever little ways you can make your winter nights feel more comforting, the more refreshed you’ll feel when facing the stress of the outside world. Perhaps you can even arm yourself with a chai hot chocolate (my favorite) and a weighted blanket.

Alexandra is a sophomore at Seattle University who is studying psychology and women and gender studies. She enjoys discussing environmental rights, music, and her beautiful golden retriever, Leo.
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