The wind is so strong I can’t open the door. When I do manage to force my way out along the very icy passageway that leads to an outbuilding in my garden, I get blown along the path. The wind is that strong. It’s almost impossible to open the door. I am aware that I am actually feeling afraid of this sub zero 65 mph wind, swirling debris all around me and buffeting my body as if I were a punch bag.
As I come back into the house the warmth hits me at once and I find refuge by a roaring fire. I can feel my body relax and soften immediately. And I snuggle up for the evening in cosy clothes and slippers, feeling safe, despite the raging storm in the white landscape outside. I’ve never been to the Arctic Circle in the Winter (only the Summer) and I get a sense of how this might feel outside. I learn from my Scandinavian friends who practice the ancient art of Hygge by appreciating the comfort around me and the protection the house brings as I light more candles to create a nurturing atmosphere. I put the kettle on and sit hugging a warm cup of tea out of my favourite mug. These simple acts make me feel much better and I am aware of a sense of contentment and happiness flooding my being. In fact, I am even resting in the sound of the howling wind outside and the final flakes of snow as if Winter is in its final throes.
The word Hygge originated in Denmark and according to the ‘visit Denmark’ website, “hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life”. Various dictionaries and other resources cite that hygge can be found in the simplest of things like the warm glow of candlelight or a fire or by cosying up indoors. It is simply the feeling of cosiness, warmth and contentment which is brought about by the simplest of things which are uniquely meaningful to each of us.
The website goes on to suggest that the practice of hygge explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world! This same practice is not unlike the taking in the good practice that is described by Rick Hanson in his book “Hardwiring Happiness”.
Having spent a lot of time with special friends from the northern countries of our world, I learned about and have practiced Hygge for many years. I often guide the ‘taking in the good’ practice during the free daily sits because of its simplicity and power. Just by introducing the idea of bringing to mind a smile – something that has made us smile recently, no matter how small, and allowing it to grow and glow inside us, can shift our mood and sense of wellbeing.
Over the years whilst practicing and guiding mindfulness practice I have become much more mindful as a practice during daily life, so I notice these little things. I notice how difficult things make me feel and how they have a tendency to linger in my being. I also notice contrasts and my blogs have been about this recently. I also made a commitment to ‘walk my talk’ and ‘practice what I preach’ and watch out for the small little gifts of loveliness in my life which make me smile or feel happy. I realise how important this practice has been throughout the long, dark, cold nights in this difficult Winter of separation and isolation.
The next morning after the storm I woke up feeling quite warm and was quite shocked when I looked out of the window. It felt like Winter said goodbye at midnight and the sunrise had brought Spring with it. The temperature had risen at least 10 degrees. The white landscape outside had been erased with the closing of the curtains and a green, sunny, still landscape appeared when the curtains were opened, like the frenetic and dramatic changing of the stage scene behind theatre curtains.
My first reaction was to welcome in the sunshine and its warmth and that made me smile and feel good inside. But I also noticed a lack. I had grown to enjoy the moments of hygge, snuggling up and making myself cosy amidst the storm and winter cold, but now there was no need. I also became aware of the contrast between outside and inside. During the very cold snap I had spent a lot of time indoors, creating cosy spaces to rest as being outside was uncomfortable. Yet now the outside welcomed and lured me towards it, the inside now seemingly less appealing. This was quite interesting to observe.
The insight appeared in a flash as I became aware of how I am drawn to comfort. I reached for my favourite mug of tea as I became aware of a need for consolation as I absorbed this major change, not only in how everything looked, but how it felt too. Already I was missing the cosiness and candles and warm fire which seemed to have been snatched away in a heartbeat.
For the first time in months I took my cup of tea outside, and welcomed the first real warmth of sunshine of the year. As I sat embracing it and feeling nurtured by its warmth as I absorbed it into my being, I became aware of a new stillness in the air and the sea. The sea had been raging for months and now it sparkled with sunlight with hardly a wave.
The behaviour of the birds had profoundly changed too. One day they were scrabbling about trying to get the last seed or piece of bread from the frozen ground, or they were totally absent in the strong wind. Now they were chirping away, and I detected the first hint of a dawn chorus in months. This was yet another joy filling my being.
I could feel a shift beneath my feet and in the air as yet another contrast became apparent with its whole range of different joys and comforts for my practice. I became aware of these new opportunities and moments of hygge as they offered themselves to keep me going through these difficult times of missing family, friends and connection with other people.
I invite you to sit for a while and reflect on any moments of comfort you have created throughout the winter and how they made you feel. What comes into your mindful awareness as you open to the changes in nature as we can feel the seasons shift. How does that feel? Are there new moments of comfort you can bring into your practice?
I would love to hear your comments so please do write to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the joyful moments as we notice the signs of Spring.
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.