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Ok y’all. Now we’re getting to the stuff I love. Cozy. Even the word sounds nice. Growing up in a cold Northern climate probably has a lot to do for my appreciation for coziness and wintertime. Heck the Dutch have a whole word for it: hygge. If anyone knows how to deal with cold, grey, depressing weather, it’s the Northern Europeans. And while some just get grumpy, or depressed the Dutch get serious about their coziness.
I grew up in Michigan, and back then we went Trick or Treating in our snowsuits and were often still wearing them in April. (And we walked to school uphill both ways too.) There were whole weeks where it was absolutely bitter outside, the snow was drifted into pretty intimidating drifts, and we hadn’t seen the sun in days. All of that brings out the hibernating bear in even the most human of us.
I often think that in winter we should cancel all after school activities, church events, and clubs so we can get some rest. Winter is perfect for a little bit of hibernation in everyone’s life. You don’t have to be a chipmunk to appreciate a winter slowdown. It used to happen pretty naturally. Humans in places where the seasons swing wildly would work feverishly through spring, summer, and fall. But when winter rolled around, with it’s incredibly short and dark days and snow and cold everything sort of stopped. Before the days of snow plows, electric lights, and central heating most people went into their own sort of hibernation each winter.
We slept longer, and stayed close to the fire. Families spent time telling stories to entertain each other, and making handicrafts to keep busy. We were forced by the weather to take a break, if ever so briefly, and rest. Winter doesn’t constrain us so much as it once did, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still offering the invitation. It’s an invitation we should consider accepting.
Slowing down is deeply counter cultural today. The message we get bombarded with is that we must work faster, harder, smarter. We need to hustle! To do anything other than full on burnout speed is lazy. And there’s nothing worse than lazy. Actually, there are quite a few things worse than lazy, busy to the point of death being chief among them.
Whether we actually die from being too busy part of us does. When we’re so busy we have no time to slow down then even self-care, even time with family, even things we are supposed to enjoy become a task to tick off the list so we can move on to the next thing. We stop living in the moment, we spend all our time looking toward the next thing. And a bit of our soul dies.
The rest that winter invites us into combats all of this. It invites us to stop looking ahead to spring, and instead spend time here and now. To be aware of what we’re doing, and who we do it with.
Suggestions for Your December Hibernation
If you’d like to try a mini-hibernation or a winter slowdown this year here are some of my favorite suggestions for taking advantage of winter and adding a little hygge to your life.
- Take a hiatus from clubs, lessons, and other extra events you do through the month of December. Most fitness clubs, yoga studios, etc will allow you to put your membership on hold for a small “holding” fee. You can reactivate when ready.
- Say “no” to more things than you normally would to free up time for rest.
- At least one day a week ditch the alarm clock entirely and wake up when your body is truly and fully rested (but no going to bed late the night before!)
- If you haven’t napped in years why not add naps back into your daily life. They’re good for you, and now that you aren’t a toddler, you’ll enjoy them!
- Pull out the warm duvets and wool blankets, make sure everything is clean and fresh and ready for lots of snuggling.
- Add a faux fur blanket to your collection for extra warmth and a great sensory experience as well. These blankets are usually quite heavy and that extra weight will add to your feeling of security when snuggled underneath.
- Dig the board games out of the closet and make it a point to spend at least one evening a week with no electronics, no work, and no homework. Instead, play boardgames together.
- Bundle up in your long johns, scarves, and winter coats and take insulated mugs of tea or cocoa on a nice long walk. Leave the phones and electronic devices behind and just enjoy the winter scenery.
- Pick a TV show to watch it through from beginning to end over the course of the winter.
- Bake. There’s nothing like a working oven to take the edge off a really cold night. Bake up some pies, some gingerbread, or some brownies and let the kitchen get really cozy.
- Make mulled cider or wine. Not only will you have a warm spicy drink to enjoy but the whole house will be fragranced with the mulling spices.
- Drink your coffee, tea, or cocoa by the window (wrap up with a blanket if it’s drafty!) and just watch the snow (or rain) fall. Let yourself have 10, 20, or 30 minutes where you are still and don’t get anything productive done.
- Read a book that won’t make you a better person, but that you thoroughly enjoy (I suggest a steamy romance or a shoot’em’up space battle).
- Review your volunteer commitments, kids’ activities, and affiliations and cut those that don’t bring you real and last joy. Don’t fill that time up with something else right away.
- Spend time dreaming of your summer garden. Browse through seed catalogs, make sketches, and dream about what you’d like to create, grow, and nurture in the next few seasons.
- Listen to an audiobook, or read a book aloud with your spouse. Spend your cooking time reading something together and talking about it will make for a quiet, cozy evening.
- Set aside time to reignite an old passion: did you used to love making model airplanes but “don’t have time” anymore? Maybe you used to delve through dungeons with your friends but that’s “childish” now? Make time for the things you once loved and remember that things that bring you joy are never childish, and deserve our time!
- Spend time with friends. Have a casual potluck at your house, or meet up at a local restaurant if that’s easier. But make time to see the people you enjoy hanging out with more this winter.
- Try writing a letter by hand, on paper, and mail it with a real stamp. You’ll surprise and delight whoever is lucky enough to get such an oddity!
- You’ve heard of a “morning routine” well time for a hygge “homecoming routine.” When you get home from work make yourself comfy. Change into comfortable clothes (or PJs!), wash your face, care for your skin, and then put good warm food in your body! See if the rest of the evening doesn’t go so much better.