When you live in a place with long winters, you need to develop ways of not just coping with winter but thriving in it. Winter in Michigan begins sometime in November and ends sometime (hopefully) in March. That’s many weeks of cold, snow and dark. On top of that, West Michigan can be rather cloudy due to the effects of Lake Michigan. Winter is a significant part of life here.
I had never heard of the Danish concept of hygge until a few years ago, but as soon as I read about it I knew we were already doing it as a family. Maybe it’s my Scandinavian DNA (Swedish, not Danish), but I instinctively have developed ways to deal with the long winters. In fact, winter is my second favorite season (after autumn).
What is hygge?
Hygge is challenging to translate into English, but it includes ideas such as coziness, togetherness and well-being. One article explains that hygge isn’t just about physical surroundings, but it is above all a state of mind. It is more than hot cocoa and a soft blanket. It is a way of thinking about and approaching winter, relationships, etc.
Although we never use the term around here, hygge is a big part of our life. For us, it includes everything from having a fire in the fireplace almost every evening during supper to creating a cozy atmosphere in our home by the way we arrange the furniture and decorate.
Our home is our nest where we gather together and spend quality time. We see our home as a quiet place to withdraw from the craziness of the world and rest together.
Creating a Hygge Mindset
Whenever I hear people complain about the cloudiness or the crummy weather, I reply with something like, “It’s not crummy weather! It’s cozy weather!” Just thinking about the gray outside in a different way changes your mindset.
Cloudiness outside means the fire burns a bit more brightly, the lamps glow a bit more, and home is more of a peaceful refuge from the darkness. It’s a mindset to be cultivated.
This mindset has become such a part of me that the past few weeks I’ve actually mourned a bit that the evenings are staying lighter longer and longer. Why? Because when we light the fire at suppertime, it doesn’t glow quite as warmly and brightly. It’s glow is reduced a bit by the sunlight coming in. I find myself already missing the extra coziness of deep winter evenings. I know that instead of spending cozy evenings at home, spring and summer will bring about more outside activities and yard work.
Developing an attitude of hygge has helped us avoid the worst of cabin fever. Because we homeschool and work from home, it would be very easy for us to get extreme cabin fever. For the most part, we don’t because of our adjusted attitude.
There are other things we’ve learned to do beyond hygge that have helped us learn to thrive in the winter. David and I take chewable Vitamin D3 every day. We have a natural spectrum floor lamp that we sit near for a bit each day it if it cloudy. We also make sure we get enough sleep each night.
>>>(Updated: I actually prefer the cozy life in America instead of Danish hygge.)<<<
Cozy Cardboard Playhouse
But perhaps one of the best investments we’ve made is this cardboard playhouse for Caroline.
This has been a tremendous purchase. (Note: The price of this house varies widely. We paid much less than the current price on Amazon.) We pull it out every few weeks and assemble it for her. (It only takes a couple of minutes.) We set up a small television and DVD player. Caroline has a cute small lantern similar to this for cozy lighting. She covers the floor with soft blankets and brings in her favorite stuffed animals, Calvin and Hobbes anthologies, and whatever else she decides she needs. She has a little pink footstool she uses for a table and we let her eat her lunch or supper in there while she watches a video.
Caroline thinks it’s fun she gets to eat in there. She continues to decorate the walls inside as well which makes it even more homelike for her. After it is out for a few days, we fold it up and put it back in the basement. When we pull it out again a few weeks later, it’s fun all over again. It’s sturdy cardboard and she’s careful with it so we’ve not had any problems with it falling apart. I anticipate we’ll get several years use out of this purchase and she’ll have lots of fun memories.
How do you find ways to thrive in the winter? Do you have any special tips or tricks?