Article from Dec/Jan 2017 issue of PosAbility Magazine 

Words by Colette Carr/ 2A Publishing ©

Exploring the Danish way of life

Hygge (hoo-gah) is the Danish  phenomenon that was never meant to be translated, but to be felt.

It’s more than just an online fad though. The Danes are the happiest nation in the world and for good reason. Hygge is the art of being cosy – but it shares its values with Christmas.

Christmas has fast become one of, if not the most commercialised time of the year, but it’s humble values of gratitude, contentment and being with loved ones are closely linked with what hygge represents.

It’s so much more though than enjoying a comfortable home and work life. Hygge is more than surrounding yourself with homely interiors and plush cushions. While this can achieve hygge and in some cases actually aid in independent living, it goes deeper and may be the perfect recipe for a good winter warming .

Light it up

Hygge is a sensory experience and  sensation is at its heart. We often hear “lighting is everything, darling” in many walks of life, and it’s no different with hygge. But think more Kate Winslet’s  cottage in The Holiday and less  Blackpool Illuminations. The trick is to have a warm and comforting ambience, not too dissimilar to traditional Christmas lighting. Dump your tired red, green and blue fairy lights and instead opt for softer white frosted berry lights or golden string lights to create a soft glow and scatter them across the home and use lamps, switching off ‘the big light’.

Make use of natural light (if there is any) this winter. Artificial light is no real replacement for natural light – open the curtains wide and let any light flood into your space, while we have it.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can make the winter months difficult to adjust to and uncomfortable, so let natural light in and let SAD lights and hygge help you through the darker hours.

Another way of adding cosy lighting is a hygge essential – candles. Grab the matches and a mix of styles, colours and scented waxes. Christmas candles can fill your home with warming and hearty scents of ginger, spices, wood and other festive smells creating a sensory and aromatic atmosphere. For those who find strong smells irritating, unscented candles can help create that ambience without the lingering or overpowering odours.

Take another leaf out of the Danes’ book and make candles part of your interior design plans. Rustic candle  holders made of wood, marble or copper wire look great paired with the soft  furnishings hygge promotes.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, flickering tongues of flames scream hygge, giving a deep heat and atmospheric crackling noise.

Set the table

Christmas is about good food, drink and company – three  staples of hygge.

Comforting, simple and hearty food like soups, slow-cooked stews and roasted dishes are popular meals to gather around and enjoy in the wintertime. The internet is

overflowing with ‘hygge recipes’ that meet dietary or intolerance requirements to help you get in the spirit. Hot drinks are also a pillar of hygge. Remember when your gran told you “there was nothing that a cup of tea couldn’t fix”? Your gran was well ahead of her own hygge time. Soothing warm drinks help heat you up, fight off bugs, and can be a great indulgence and comfort.

Christmastime brings with it a range of festive hot beverages which the Danes are renowned for, as well as their pastries and sweet treats, but they are masters of the moderation game. One trick to remember is to be ‘treat-smart’. It is the season for over-indulgence though, so why not enjoy the numerous selection boxes and desserts and treat yourself all in the name of hygge?

Reconnect with nature

Take in the winter months’ beauty as much as you can – weather permitting. With wonderlands, gorgeous  landscapes and festive days out, enjoy the light hours while you can in crisp weather wrapped up in true hygge style. Being hygge isn’t  confined to the home, you can also bring the outdoors inside. Christmas trees, holly, evergreens, logs, pines and mistletoes are a great way to bring the outdoors in.

Little hygge

The festive sensory overload may prove too much for little ones living with sensory disorders, but a helping of hygge may help them avoid over-stimulation.

By allowing a child to help create their own slice of hygge, you can keep them entertained in the cold winter months and help them remain comfortable and calm.

Letting them build their own safe space or  Christmas haven, like a dark den will help them disassociate and escape stressful situations. Employ deep pressure and low lighting and let them fill it with comforting blankets, pillows or toys –  letting them decorate the space as they wish allows them to regain some control over their environment in the noisy and busy holiday months. Add their favourite Christmas decorations for a festive touch and allow them to hide away with a colouring book or film if they become stressed.

Kids can also get crafty for hygge. Make stained-glass candle holders to add soft lighting and warm  colours. Using an empty mason jar, coloured tissue paper, glue and a battery tealight candle, kids can cut and stick patterns of the paper all over the jar before dropping the candle in to give a stained-glass effect.