Hygge (pronounced hue-gah or hoo-guh) is a Danish concept that encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being, amplifying comfort and togetherness while enjoying the simple things in life. The intense winters experienced in Scandanavian countries have long been the reason why Hygge became such a cultural phenomenon, serving as an alternative form of wellness that was born out of necessity. A way to balance emotions, soothe triggers, and support immunity by releasing feel-good hormones; especially important during seasons when we have less access to Vitamin D from the sun, (deficiency has been tied to depression and autoimmune disease).
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Somewhere between the words “wellbeing”, “mood” and “hug”, hygge refers to comfort as a form of self-soothing rather than escapism. There are no rules or ceremonies, rather an intention to sooth the soul in sensory ways that provide long-lasting effects on the psyche, body and spirit. Vanlife has long been a way to strive for more personal freedoms, while carrying some comforts of home with us along the journey. Adopting these principles while on the road, many of us have found a way to consider our mental state as a prompt to make space for our overall sensory experiences: enhancing the home, our lived experiences, and embracing togetherness in new ways. While safety concerns have many of us sequestered from the pack, it can be an opportunity to get to know the self, and nurture the internal relationship, as well as and foster relationships in outdoor spaces or with nature.
It’s importance in Danish culture has been likened to what “Aloha” means to Hawaiian natives, and “Freedom” means to the American identity— a sense of sovereignty and easygoingness of the spirit, mirrored from the individual outward to their community interactions. These states-of-being are a sacred birthright and deserve to be felt by all. For peoples who live on the road, freedom has long been at the forefront of the collective agenda, as we drive toward desire, and chase sunsets. Like the spirit of Aloha, one can take the sense of Hygge with you wherever we go, as it is not limited to one place, culture or time. The aim is to take a little break from all the daily stimuli, and take a moment to focus back on the physical senses, creating an experience where we show ourselves some love and gratitude, and watch as it radiates outward to your community, amplifying the soothing. Just as ‘Hurt people Hurt People’, so is it’s polarity ‘Healing people Heal People’.
Back To Basics
By no means is hygge intended to be about luxury, consumerism or a holiday. When we unplug, and focus on our physical needs, we can take our cue from the olde-world, aligning mindfulness into our awareness and prioritizing care, conservation and compassion, as a daily practice. Opting for candles, snuggling and layering in sweaters before flipping a light switch or cranking up the thermostat. Self-care can look as simple as eating your favorite nourishing comfort foods, or bundling up in order to sustain a beautiful snowy walk the day after a blizzard. So, cuddle up with a book, slip on those fuzzy thick socks, or chill in a blanket fort! (Tip: engage the joyful whims of your ‘inner child’ to enhance the healing effects of any healing practice)
History shows us that alarming numbers of Black and Non-Black BIPOC struggle with higher levels of disease caused by environmental stressors, food toxins (pesticides), and especially the inherited traumas, passed down generationally through epigenetics. Recharging, strengthens our ability to think cognitively and compassionately, building better systems that foster evolution and sustainability. In order to empower our marginalized communities and build equity we must create free support resources and make them easily accessible.
In a society that relies heavily on essential workers (positions held predominantly by BIPOC peoples in lower-income communities), all forms of self-care and alternative healing practices need to become more accessible to people in lower-income communities, if we are to sustain and thrive together. Now is the time to learn from one another’s methods, so that we may grow into a more holistic, wise, and empowered species. Tearing down the walls that separate us, and building bridges as opportunities for mutual aid to those most in need.
Rest is Revolutionary
Over the months of civil unrest, pandemic and election fatigue, illness, loss, transition and cold/flu season, something’s got to give! If we are to continue the fight toward a more just and balanced future, we must consider how we combat stress, mental health, and the impact it has on our health longterm, ultimately getting passed down generationally through trauma, habit and epigenetics. we must graduate from indulgence to self-care. Let’s find an appreciation for life and engage our senses in a way that elevates overall wellbeing rather than as a form of escapism or distraction. Hygge isn’t about a holiday or season, though as the days grow colder, and many of us are spending more time indoors due to the pandemic, this healing way of life is an ideal reminder to prioritize mental health. We must do what we can to prevent and sooth feelings of overwork, depression, anxiety, fatigue, emotional distress, confusion, and unrest. Winter reminds us of the importance of a reset, recharging for the rebirth of new ideas and life, in the spring.
You’ll know ’hygge’ when you feel it. For me, it’s those cool mornings when my dog nestles himself onto my side and lets out a loud sigh, using our shared body heat like a furnace, taking a silent moment to indulge in a moment of a warm loving embrace.
So, let’s slide on our ‘Hyggebusker’ (sweatpants), set the mood, and cozy up to a healing cup of joy.