Hygge by Dr. Marshall Lysne

If there was ever a time when we need to relax and put the worries of the world on the shelf, it is now. We are in mid-winter 2021. It’s cold, it’s snowy, we just finished one of the worst years in recent memory on a number of fronts, and, on top of that, we live in Wisconsin. Normally living here is a good thing. For the most part, we have a wonderful climate. We have very definite seasonal changes from spring to summer, fall though winter. And even with these changes, the common knowledge is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a little while and it will change.”

Right now it’s winter, and we are still cooped up from the COVID-19 crisis, and I hear a lot of grumbling about, “We can’t go anywhere, we can’t see anyone, we are sick of this lifestyle, woe is me, etc., etc.” Well, I have news for you. It’s winter, you live in Wisconsin, and you knew or should have known that it gets cold, it snows, and we are often indoors for extended periods of time. So it seems that there are three possible solutions for the situation.

Solution #1: You can pull up stakes, shed the snow and the cold, find an isolated southern location, and move.

Solution #2: You can stay and complain and bemoan your fate until you either get sick of hearing yourself grumble or your loved ones strongly suggest you do Solution #1.

Or you can consider Solution #3: Embrace the situation you are in. It’s winter, it’s cold, you are here, and assuming you can’t afford to move or don’t want to, and you finally are tired of complaining about something you can’t do anything about anyway, make the best of it. Dress warmly, go outside, and go for a walk in the park or across the fields or through the woods, away from traffic and noise and activity. Look around at the snow and the trees, smell the freshness, feel the wind in your face, and thank your lucky stars that you are alive and here to experience and enjoy what you see and feel.

Then, when you are back inside, take some time to wind down and relax. Turn off the TV, turn off the cell phone, grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, find a cozy chair, a warm blanket, take a deep breath, and lose yourself in the warmth and comfort of your home. Share this time with your family or close friends and talk over things of mutual interest.

There is a word for this activity; it’s called “hygge,” pronounced (hoo-gah). It is of Danish and Norwegian extraction and, roughly translated, it means “cozy” or to give “courage, comfort, and joy.” It also means to give and to feel a sense of “well being.” In a practical sense, it is awareness and appreciation for the good things that we have and sharing that feeling with those close to us.

I grew up in a rural Norwegian farming community. To be honest, I don’t ever recall hearing the word hygge in any of the conversations throughout my youth. I never heard it, but I saw it nearly every day. It seemed to be intrinsic in the lifestyle of these folks. Friends and neighbors would often stop by in the middle of the day to simply talk. There was always a coffee pot on the stove and cookies or cake to be shared. No appointment was necessary; you just showed up. Although there was more time in the midst of winter for these impromptu sessions, it could also happen in the summer. There is never a season for setting the troubles of the world aside for a time and allowing yourself the time for peaceful conversation and relaxation. While it may be a while before we all can safely engage in these types of activities outside of our household, the time is coming when normalcy will return.

This has been a time of great trial for many of us. But we have all been through trials before, and we have survived. We will survive this, too. So today, let’s look for the good that is all around us. Relax, put your worries on the shelf, give yourself a break, and let’s practice a little hygge. It’s good for the soul.

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