The holidays are over, and we’re staring down the barrel of winter and new year’s resolutions that will make us happier and make our lives better. It’s tempting to commit to doing more things, like exercising and cooking healthier meals. But could we be happier if we did less, rather than more? The Danish experience may indicate we could.
Scandinavian countries, as dark and cold as they are in the winter, are always at the top of happiness surveys. So what can they teach us? The Danish concept of hygge (“hue-gah“) may be a useful way to help us reorient ourselves—away from our frantic American pressure to do more and more. Hygge invites us to back off, snuggle in, and do less. Hygge is sometimes translated as “coziness,” which is sort of an inexact translation, or “the art of creating intimacy,” which might be closer, because hygge speaks to a way of doing or being.
What would a hygge resolution look like? Hygge invites us to slow down. Taking care of ourselves doesn’t need to mean going out for mani-pedis or blowing lots of money on spa treatments. We could stay home, break out the fuzzy socks, and have a quiet evening with family over hot chocolate instead. In slowing down, hygge invites us to do fewer things. The quintessential image of hygge is to be wearing a warm sweater and drinking hot tea/coffee/chocolate inside by the light of candles or a fire, while it snows or rains outside. It’s the sort of thing we Americans tend to overschedule ourselves out of. We say “oh, I’ll have time to slow down in a few days, after I finish all these other things,” but that day never comes.
Just Saying “I’ll back off and make time for me” Isn’t Enough!
So, where do we start with a resolution to slow down? Just saying it isn’t enough. Here are some possibilities to consider:
- Are there obligations you can let go of? Can someone else do those things?
- Are there relationships in your life that aren’t serving you? Could you put boundaries around those relationships that would free up energy for yourself?
- Is it worth hiring someone to do chores you don’t like, maybe a house cleaner or a laundry service?
- Do you want to explore meal delivery services? There are many options for fast, healthy meals you could have delivered one or more times a week that promise to save you time with meal preparation.
- What about your relationship with technology? Are you at the mercy of your devices most of the time? You might consider blocking off a day or two each week to be technology-free and see if you find more time for yourself.
- Many people also swear by getting up really early to have time for yourself to exercise or work on creative projects. But getting up much earlier means going to bed earlier—is that something you want to look into?
The important aspect to creating more time and space is to be intentional—pay attention to how you’re really spending your time, what it feels like you’re spending your energy on, and ask yourself if it’s absolutely necessary. How much space and time can you make in your life? Only then can you start committing to new things, like creative pursuits and exercise plans.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2018!