If you’re a parent, you may well be feeling burned out by this time of year. And with good reason. You’ve been working hard all year, and when the holidays come, you worked harder!
Most parents have a very hard time investing in their own well-being. That’s just not what we’re taught to do in our society. When I ask parents in my practice what they do just for themselves, or what they do that nourishes them, the most common answer is a shame-faced “Nothing.” Or sometimes: “Well, I try to get to the gym but I just don’t make it there as much as I should.”
Should should should. Our lives are heavy with the burden of the dreaded shoulds. No wonder there are studies that rank parenthood as leading to more suffering than losing a spouse, getting divorced, and being fired. I don’t think it has to be this way. It’s just that we don’t value our own well-being, and prioritize it.
Consider: Well-being requires tending, whether you’re child-free or a parent. Your well-being is a beautiful flower that requires nurturing and care to reach its full blossoming.
How do we make space for those things that nourish us?
The Danish may have this question partly figured out. The Danish, deemed some of the happiest people in the world, survive winter months with long days of darkness. During their prolonged, cold Northern winters, they employ a jolly practice called hygge (pronounced Hooga or H-yoo-ga, which is so much fun to say that it becomes its own reason to engage in the practice).
Hygge is the practice creating a cozy atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. But Danes describe it in a variety of ways. It’s a sense of togetherness. Warmth of the soul. It’s the art of intimacy, with yourself, with family, with friends. It’s a way to cherish yourself, or to make yourself feel snug. Whatever images and activities these words conjure for you is exactly what hygge is.
I find hygge to be a beautiful concept in its glorious vagueness— It’s not one thing; it’s many different things to different people. It can be hanging out alone or with friends, frumpy or formal, at home or out on the town. You need not be wealthy to do it. It’s about an experience, not material things. The important point is that anyone and everyone can engage in this nourishing practice. It simply requires taking a moment to slow down and a willingness to make ordinary things feel extraordinary.
I’ve started incorporating the idea of hygge into my prescription for families. It’s about forgetting what you “should” do and taking time to do what you want to do. Doing things that nourish you and take you away from your worries for a time. Sure, going to a Zumba class can be that. But I recommend setting aside a bit of sacred time each week that allows you to cherish yourself and feel snug.
10 Ways to Enjoy Hygge With (or Without) Your Family
- Get cozy in bed under a fluffy comforter alone, with your partner, or with the kids. Read a great book or watch a movie together.
- Bake cinnamon cookies and eat them with a mug of delicious hot cocoa. Quietly spike yours with peppermint schnapps or something else strong. (You’re welcome).
- Light a few candles near wherever you’re sitting, whether you’re doing work or relaxing. If it’s not work time, dim the lights. Invite some friends over. Tell stories, sing songs, or just bask in the coziness and beauty.
- Meet friends at a small café with a roaring fire for coffee, tea or beer.
- Light a fire in your fireplace or a bonfire in a fire pit and toast marshmallows.
- Cook and eat a favorite family dinner together.
- Take a warm Epsom salt bath with a few drops of essential oils and candles. Lay your pajamas on the radiator or throw them in the dryer so they’re nice and warm when you get out.
- Brew tea in a teapot and drink it from special cups and saucers.
- Linger at the end of a meal. Don’t jump up to clear the table—enjoy the company of the people you’re with. Pour yourself an extra glass of wine.
- Throw a hygge party. Simple is key. Light a bunch of candles, turn down the lights, and have everyone bring something they love to eat for everyone to share.
As the weather grows colder (or at least drearier, depending on where you live), many of us are driven indoors and into a potentially nasty case of the cabin fever crazies. Make the most of it with hygge!
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