Why Hygge Should Be More Than A Trend

Though there are many ways to describe hygge, we see it simply as the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Friends. Family. Graciousness. Contentment. Good feelings. A warm glow. Certainly, hygge is intrinsic to the Danish lifestyle, but this feeling of well-being, so deeply satisfying and cozy, is something we all experience, each in our own way. 

Skagen

I feel blessed in so many ways that I often find myself thinking “what would my life be like without all of different these people in it?” Growing up in a small town in Canada, my mother and three of my grandparents were all foreigners. I think this influenced me to both crave exploring the world myself and cultivate relationships from people of varied backgrounds.

My sister-in-law is Danish and I accept this does NOT make me an expert on the cultural word of the moment, hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”) , it DOES mean I have watched, learned and embraced what she has shown me over the last 12 years. She presented me last year with a book on hygge and I’d like to take a few moments to discuss why this Danish custom, in so many ways, should be how we embrace life and not just a passing trend.

IMG_6083
Swiss-infused hygge with a slice of Bündner Nusstorte, a roaring fire and a cup of tea in my husband’s London 2012 mug! (for the Bündner Nusstorte recipe link click here)

Hygge began to noticeably gain non-Danish popularity a few winters ago. A quick search on Pinterest will garner thousands of results, normally photos of a warm winter scene with hot drinks, animals, soft lighting and books. With its focus on a cosy and present lifestyle, I can see why people have begun to gravitate towards it. Well-being is something we often overlook to a fault in our modern, busy lives. We are always plugged in, switched on and overly stimulated.  We take our coffees to go, eat in our cars and read books on screens (OK, full disclosure, I do this too even when I’m in hygge-mode).  All this rushing but for what purpose? Is it making us happier? When do we make time for ourselves? To nourish our souls and bodies as they should be?

Hygge is not so much a word as it is actions and feelings: switch off your phone, put comfortable and cozy clothing on, light some candles, light a fire, grab a blanket and book and relax.  We need to take time for ourselves to reconnect with our deep emotions and push out the intrusions of daily life. Take a moment to sit and truly enjoy a hot drink with a piece of cake or pastry without guilt.

If you still struggle with what hygge would mean for you, think of it as taking time to not only ignore push notifications, but to not receive any in the first place.  Why do we feel guilty when we switch off our phones?  Why must we make dramatic announcements about how we are leaving social media to be happier? We should be able to do these things without explanation. That is hygge to me.

We should all thank the Danish for putting into writing the very thing we all need to be doing!

Now go turn your phone off and put the kettle on!

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  Fotolia – Alena Ozerova, Jennifer Hart

Living Abroad: Grief, loss and living far away from ‘home’

Ask anyone living away from their family and/or homeland what weighs heavily on their minds and you will often hear such things as:

-missing out on family events
-not being there for weddings, births, graduations, first steps, etc
-not feeling connected enough to friends and family ‘back home’

Yet, there is one, often unspoken topic that comes to mind too quickly for those of us that have moved thousands of miles from home. We don’t talk about it much but it is there, hovering like a dark cloud, and it remains present from the moment we are first offered or choose to move far away: What if something bad happens?

I know this question is not unique to expats/internationals, but when you have thousands and thousands of miles placed between you and the ones you love, this question can seem unbearable.  In fact, many people have reported to me over the years that they didn’t take an international assignment because of this one very thought. What if something bad happens? 

I can’t say I’ve reconciled this question for myself other than to say I try not to focus on it.  That doesn’t always work and this past August we were smacked in the face with grief as my father-in-law ended his year long battle with pancreatic cancer. We traveled unexpectedly to my husband’s passport country which thankfully, isn’t as far as mine.  The pain of the last 15 years of my husband being abroad surged through his heart…should he have moved overseas? Would he have had more time with his father? Did he miss out on too much? Guilt. Anger. Pain. Upset. Real life.  These are not easy moments in our lives and the impact of realising your what if has become a reality brings a lot of the early emotions of moving abroad to the surface again.

Despite the emotional doubts, my husband can take solace in the fact that his father was beyond proud of his achievements and the life he made for himself abroad.  We met many wonderful people that told us how he often boasted about his children and they knew we lived in Switzerland, loved to ski, etc. To us, that meant that even if we weren’t physically present all the time, we had presence in my father-in-law’s life. It is important to remain attached and communicative with those left behind when we move.  A simple text, phone call, email of photos, social media tag, etc. These are the things that help us pick up where we left off on our next visit. When you only see friends and family once year or more, you have to fill the void with information and tales of your real life. If that gap grows too big, you can feel a painful distance begin to grow, one which is hard to close.

When someone’s life comes to an end, no matter if you lived next door or ten thousand miles away, you will realise there was simply never enough time. Grief does not have a fixed address.

 

 

Photo: Fotolia