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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Boothman M.C

Managing the Winter Blues


While winter doesn’t technically start for almost two months, Calgary’s most recent snowfall might have you thinking otherwise. As the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, many of us find ourselves in the midst of winter, facing the challenges that this season can bring to our mental health. Winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a common struggle for people of all ages. 


Being aware of the effects that winter can have on our mental health is particularly important in a city like Calgary, where the winter months can be especially challenging. Calgary experiences long, harsh winters characterized by frigid temperatures and a limited amount of daylight. With such conditions, many residents in this Canadian city face an increased risk of SAD, isolation, and heightened stress levels.  


Hygge, pronounced “hoo-guh” offers a vital antidote by encouraging people to create warm, cozy environments within their homes and build strong social connections. These practices can help combat the isolation and winter blues that are often prevalent during the colder months, making hygge a valuable approach to enhancing mental well-being in this unique climate. 


Never heard of hygge? It was quite a fad a few years ago, and you could find the term splashed across all sorts of home décor, but it actually dates back to the 1800’s. Hygge is a Danish term encompassing comfort, contentment, and the appreciation of life's simple pleasures. It revolves around creating a cozy, warm atmosphere conducive to relaxation and meaningful connections. While not a direct cure for mental health issues, hygge's principles can significantly contribute to emotional well-being and many of its concepts align with research in the area.  


The insights shared in this blog are inspired by Meik Wiking, the author of "The Little Book of Hygge" and the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute. Meik is a Danish happiness expert who has dedicated his career to researching and promoting well-being. His work at the Happiness Research Institute involves studying what makes people happy and how to enhance their quality of life. As an advocate for hygge, Meik's expertise in happiness and well-being aligns perfectly with the concept, making his insights invaluable for individuals seeking to improve their mental health, particularly during the challenging winter months. His research-based knowledge has provided a solid foundation for incorporating hygge into daily life and experiencing its positive effects firsthand. 


Hygge and Mental Health Benefits: 

  • Stress Reduction: Winter often brings stress, exacerbated by holidays and academic demands. Hygge encourages slowing down, relishing the present, and fostering tranquility, helping reduce stress. 

  • Mood Enhancement: Embracing hygge urges us to find joy in life's small delights, such as a hot cup of tea, a roaring fire, or a captivating book. These simple pleasures elevate moods and combat winter blues. 

  • Building Relationships: Strong social bonds are pivotal for mental health, yet winter may lead to isolation. Hygge promotes togetherness, offering emotional support and connection with loved ones. 

 

Another interesting insight from the Happiness Research Institute’s 2019 Good Home Report was that 73% of people who are happy with their homes are generally happy. This report outlines the importance of home design and structure on our levels of comfort and happiness. But this doesn’t mean we have to spend hundreds of dollars or renovate our homes. By following the principle of hygge, anyone can make small changes to improve their mental health over the winter months.  

 

At its core Hygge is about embracing coziness and all the comforts that come with the holidays all year round, but especially during the winter months. This can be easy to do in the fall and beginning of the season but becomes harder as the long dark nights stretch into February, and we continue to see snow into April and May. As with almost everything, it takes practice and intention to maintain the hygge lifestyle and continue to reap its benefits.  


7 Ways to Create Hygge this Winter: 

  1. Digital Detox: Encourage everyone to take breaks from screens, replacing screen time with hygge activities such as nature walks or learning a new cozy recipe. 

  1. Cozy Reading Nook: Create a snug reading corner with blankets and cushions, where anyone can indulge in their favorite books by candlelight or firelight. If that’s not an option, there are lots of great tv fireplaces online.  

  1. Creative Activities: Encourage kids to participate in crafts, like making paper snowflakes or drawing winter scenes, fostering creativity and contentment indoors. Older kids, teens, or adults might enjoy activities like knitting where you can curl up under your project while you’re working on it! 

  1. Hygge Get-Togethers: Organize hygge gatherings with friends, enjoy board games, bake treats, or have a cozy movie night with popcorn and hot chocolate. 

  1. Family Bonding: Plan family activities that embody hygge, like baking together, having a family movie night, or sharing stories over a warm dinner. These moments strengthen family ties. 

  1. Self-Care: Prioritize self-care routines to combat winter stress. Unwind with long baths or practice mindfulness. Demonstrating self-care sets a positive example for children as well. 

  1. Spend Time Outdoors: Embrace the cold and get bundled up to enjoy some winter activities. We are lucky to live in such a sunny city and a little bit of fresh air and vitamin D can go a long way.  

 

As winter approaches, incorporating hygge into your life can significantly improve mental health for kids, teens, and adults alike. Hygge is not about extravagant gestures but finding joy in life's simple pleasures. Light those candles, cocoon yourself in blankets, and embrace the warmth of hygge as you navigate winter with enhanced mental well-being. Remember, a cozy, content winter is within your reach. 

 

References: 

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