If I had to give hygge a true translation, I’d probably call it “leisurely charm”, meaning, it’s a moment when things are slow and at your leisure. You’re in no rush to go anywhere and better yet, you don’t feel a rush to be anywhere. There’s a sweetness, a cosiness, to what you’re doing and you just feel…. content. Whether it’s laughing with friends on a beach or drinking tea alone in the morning.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt hygge on the norm. It’s one of the huge reasons why my posts here are so few and far between. I feel if I am not living the life, I have no right to preach it. I don’t want to write about a pretend world. I’d much rather be living a real one.
But somewhere along the way I got out of step with being hygge at home. This was due to my work (70-80 hours a week were the norm), travelling a lot, moving a lot, pure exhaustion and frankly just not being present.
Despite living in cold San Francisco California for a year, I think I made tea only a handful of times and the scene above was because I had a friend in town. My whole “coffee as a verb” concept was blown. Everything was fast, everything was chaotic, everything was dull. There was no charm, there was no content, there was no hygge.
After realising that life for me had just become go, go, go, I took a day off to just be. I’d planned to spend the entire day at home; reading, writing, gardening, tea, a nap.
These were all great ideas but the reality? I was antsy. I wanted to go out. I couldn’t focus on an activity. Instead of feeling relaxed and cosy at home – my dream home I might add where gardening is aplenty, quiet is all around, home projects I want to do are totally available – all I could think to do was to still go, go, go.
I had my moment of truth: I had lost my ability to stand still. I’d lost my ability to relax. I couldn’t get my mind to chill. I couldn’t take in the view from my yard. I couldn’t just sit with a cup of tea and a candle. I couldn’t be content despite having created the exact lifestyle and home I wanted.
I had become so used to doing, going, working, that my brain couldn’t be still. I couldn’t be still. My insomnia is at an all time high – manageable when you’re younger but totally destructive, exhausting and frankly depressing now. I needed to relax, I needed to chill, I needed to nap and yet, I couldn’t do any of it. The girl who could nap so easily, that was always the most relaxed one, that always had time for tea or a book or friends. Where was she?
I realise that I can’t just change back overnight but I have to work on that balance of doing and being. Of being content and not filling time up with things to do or feeling like time’s running out. So it’s small steps for now.
So my first small step was returning to a daily habit that always had me feeling content; lighting a candle every morning with tea and every evening with a meal – something I learned from my mum who still does this every day. And also returning to making tea – picking out a favourite, brewing it just so, the act of slow drinking whilst catching up on blogs. A moment of calm in the morning before taking the dog out and then working through a day of meetings and emails. A simple ritual of being present every morning and being content with this whether it’s 10 minutes or 30. It’s a slow return back to feeling hygge. Something I couldn’t get any other way than by doing and acknowledging the act.
Hygge really is a concept that involves an activity or recognizing a moment or how you feel. I think that’s why I’ve been really critical lately of all the new Twitter handles with “hygge” in it that are pushing products or selling services. You can’t buy hygge. Trust me, if you could I’ve be hygged out and never lost my way!
But hygge requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present – but enjoy the present. That’s why so many people distill ‘hygge’ down to being a ‘feeling’ – because if you don’t feel hygge, you probably aren’t using the word right.
And I haven’t felt it for a long time but that’s changing. Partly because I’m working on being mindful and actually slowing myself down and partly because it’s autumn and the fall/winter are the perfect seasons for hygge. I literally can’t wait for December this year. That month was just made for hygge and this year, I hope to not only share how but also just really feel it through and through. One cup of tea at a time.