How Hygge Can Help Us Slow Down

For many of us, the idea of ‘slowing down’ in January might feel counterintuitive. With the barrage of ‘new year new me’, advertisements for cleanses and workout plans to rid the body of any remnants of festive feasting, and an omnipresent sense of pressure to jump back in at full speed after a few days spent attempting to relax at what often ends up being the busiest time of year. Indeed, if you set an intention to ‘slow down’ in December, the chances are that family gatherings, work parties, to-do lists, shopping and scheduling (not to mention the undercurrent of uncertainty as to whether or not Christmas plans would actually go ahead this year due to you-know-what) meant that you might not have actually has that much needed time to take things slower. If we don’t give ourselves the time to restore and rejuvenate over Christmas, we end up stumbling into the new year feeling more ragged and drained than before, which means the cycle of never ending stress, anxiety and bordering burnout rear their ugly heads once again. 

Living At Nature’s Pace

In order to give ourselves the time we need to recover and replenish ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually, it’s vital to start making our lifestyle choices not according to the calendar on the wall, but the natural pace of the seasons. The three months of Winter in the UK are December, January and February, and the Winter season holds a very special energy that supports very specific activities. Winter is very much about hibernation, resting, embracing a slower pace of life, strengthening our closest social connections, and allowing time to reflect, re-set, and eat specific seasonal foods. Winter is not about high-energy, stressful, fast-paced living. Winter is not about detoxes and self-imposed pressure to make unreasonable life changes. Winter – and January in particular, being mid-Winter – is about bringing more Hygge into our lives to help us slow down. 

What is Hygge?

Hygge (pronounced Hyoogah or Hug) is a Danish and Norwegian term for a sense of cosiness, comfort, warmth, simplicity, nesting, unity with loved ones, and deeply embraces nature and the seasons. In these Scandinavian countries, the typical harsh Winter means families tend to spend much more time hibernating at home, taking time to cook shared meals and less time engaging in the stress-inducing hustle-and-bustle that might occur at other times of the year. This ability to adopt a restorative and restful way of living is perfectly aligned with how humans have evolved to live, and in Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way To Live Well, we’re introduced to several principles we can start practicing in order to live more Hygge. 

If you want to learn how to slow down, to live by the laws of nature instead of the somewhat artificial calendar dates, and empower yourself to live at your own pace, read on to find out how to bring more Hygge into your life. 

Presence

Being immersed in the present moment is one of the core principles of Hygge living. This ability to be more and do less is key to helping us truly engage with life’s little pleasures, and helps build a sense of contentment not only with life, but with ourselves too. It’s easier than ever now to be distracted by technology and the demands of a busy life, but when we let the phone, social media, TV, online meetings and never-ending emails take over, we start to drain ourselves of vitality and end up missing life as it passes us by. Practicing being present could be one of the most rewarding intentions you set this new year, and is incredibly valuable to our wellbeing. Be more present by setting strict work / life boundaries; choose a time to switch off from your emails and stick to it. If necessary, delete email apps from your phone so you can only check emails on your laptop or computer in a very deliberate and purposeful way. Similarly, spending excessive amounts of time on social media is a fast-track way to waste a lot of time, and also prevents us from being present. Choose a place in your home to keep your phone (just like we used to do with home telephones before mobiles became widely used!), and when you’ve finished using it, put it in that place. Having our phones in our pockets means it’s all too easy to reach for them reflexively, but spending time away from them allows us to re-enter into everyday life and really live it. 

Our picks to help you practice presence:

Comfort

Being genuinely comfortable is a wonderful thing for the nervous system, but we very rarely experience it any more. Comfort is a feeling of being able to let go, relax and unwind the nervous system, but if we’re switched ‘on’ 24/7, our bodies and nervous systems never get to relax. Being comfortable in our own skin is also an important aspect of Hygge, and is something many of us tend to struggle with in January, with external pressure to change our bodies. The truth is that our bodies don’t really want to lose weight in the Winter – it has evolved over millions of years to favour storing a little fat to maintain warmth through the colder months of the year. Embarking on any sort of cleanse, fast or mindful weightloss regime is far better suited to Spring, when the bitter greens start growing again, the days are longer, and we’re naturally more motivated to feel lighter. This is why most new year resolutions of abstaining from favourite foods don’t always go to plan….. January is the time to develop a sense of trust and love for ourselves in the body we’re in right now. It’s also the time to experience pleasure (another principle of Hygge), not guilt. Cook hearty, warming meals with seasonal foods like grounding root veg, dark leafy greens, and take your time over it! This is the month for one-pot slow-roasted meals, enjoyed slowly around the table with loved ones. Instead of diving head first into a juice cleanse, give your body the food it really requires in Winter, and save the discomfort of detoxing for later in the year. 

Our picks to help you practice comfort:

  • Practicing restorative yoga can help to deeply relax and re-set the nervous system by teaching the body how to let go and be truly comfortable. Use the Yogamatters Ultimate Restorative Kit to gift yourself or a loved one some R&R.  
  • Cook recipes from One Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones with over 200 simple recipes, including stews and baked dahl – perfect Winter comfort food!
  • The Note & Shine Self Love Card Deck is designed to bring more self-acceptance, self-respect and self-love into your life. Amid the pressure to change in January, use these cards to strengthen your own sense of personal power and deep connection to yourself.

Gratitude

Gratitude is reflective, which naturally requires us to slow down and pause. When we take a moment to consider what we’re grateful for in life, we’re practicing another central aspect of Hygge. Whilst the first few days of January are often full of resolutions, new intentions, thoughts of changes we want to make, and generally speeding into another year, this can all place a burden upon us, and often causes us to make decisions that are based upon what we think we should do, not what is truly right for us. Feelings of genuine gratitude help us feel both present and comfortable, and also raise mood levels significantly – useful in the darker months of Winter. Gratitude helps us become aware of all the things we already have in life to be thankful for, and naturally moves us to live at a slower, more mindful pace. Other than writing a daily gratitude list, we can enhance feelings of Gratitude by expressing it to others; who are you grateful for? When was the last time you expressed gratitude? Receiving gratitude is also a powerful way to help rewire the brain to feel more socially connected and calmer, so the next time someone expresses gratitude to you, pause to savour it instead of brushing it off. 

Our picks to help you practice gratitude:

  • The Gratitude One Line A Day Three Year Memory Book is an easy way to adopt an attitude of gratitude consistently. Use the journal to help you recall something positive; a simple pleasure, someone you appreciate, or even a challenging experience.
  • With 50 faux matchsticks containing prompts to appreciate your surroundings, the Spark Gratitude box is a beautiful and unique way to practice gratitude with simple actions like calling a loved one or recalling past occasions that brought you happiness. 
  • Start every day of the year with a gratitude meditation from Sunrise Gratitude by Emily Silva. Accompanied by illustrations and photographs of nature, this book is designed to help you feel motivated to wake early and start your day in a meaningful way. 

These are just three ways Hygge can help us slow down this January, which is more important than ever at a time of constant change and uncertainty. Forget the calendar on the wall, and empower yourself to live at a more natural pace aligned with the Winter season this January.

The post How Hygge Can Help Us Slow Down appeared first on Yogamatters Blog.

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