It’s been over a month since I’ve last written and I just want to thank you all for giving me that time! My last post went up three days before I started my new job and then it was a whirlwind of travel and learning and bonding and total, absolute exhaustion. But I am happy to report I feel like I am settling in nicely and I am so excited to be challenging myself in new and interesting ways.
A younger version of me would have pushed myself to maintain the blog, the poetry, the novel, the social media presence all at once, even while trying to learn a new job. This time around I said no to overwhelming myself. I said no to setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I said no to torturing myself about “not being enough”. I wrote when I could, I slept when I needed to, and I took a break from obsessing about every little thing. I focused on my new work, I got to know my team instead of hiding away in my room to write (they made that easy) and I am so happy I did.
Maybe it’s because I am older and I’m finally learning a thing or two about life, or maybe I’ve changed for another reason, but I can tell you this: allowing myself to be simple kept me happy, healthy and sane these past six weeks.
I’ve never wanted to be simple. Simple was a sin in my book. If I wasn’t multi-talented, multi-tasking, multi-stressed out, then I was failing. A typical day would have been an intense weight workout, a full day of work, writing all night, responding to piled up texts, walking the dog, cleaning the apartment and then passing out totally exhausted. I got sick a lot. I wasn’t productive. My writing was… well… shitty.
Simple felt wrong, simple felt too easy, simple felt like I wasn’t doing my best.
What I’ve found is that SIMPLE allows me to excel. What I’ve come to realize is that my other talents, my other interests, and loves? They’ll still be there. This blog is still here. My poetry is still waiting for me to edit it and share it with the world. I’ve found other simpler workouts that don’t require me to travel to the gym every day. It’s all there and I will get to it. (When I can!) When I focus my attention to one or two things, I kill it. I sleep. I am not sick all the time. When I am simple I am a better, calmer, version of myself. It took a million and one tries, but I finally saw the pattern.
Now that the travel is done for a bit, now that I am finding my rhythm at work… now is when I can pick up the pen again. Write this blog post for you. Take some new photos for the IG. Make special plans with my friends. And when I do all of these things I will be more engaged because I won’t be tired, or worried, or thinking about the next task. I can simply be present.
I know there will be days when I want to go back to the way I was. When I want to pressure myself and push myself and overwhelm myself. And maybe I’ll need the extra encouragement. But knowing that it’s ok to take a step back and breathe is going to make all the difference. I mean, how often do you let yourself be simple?
When I first read of Hygge — the Danish art of enjoying small comforts — a couple of months ago, I was thrilled to find a word for the feeling and environment I’ve been creating for most of my life. It turns out that my mother was quite a natural with hygge and I’ve oh-so-thankfully inherited her attention to detail when it comes to creating “a moment.” As this is the first time in my life a trend has come naturally to me, I’ve created this guide to getting your hygge on in a city that isn’t always accepting of staying home and getting comfy.
What is Hygge exactly?
Hygge does not translate to English directly, but is often described as the feeling or mood that comes from making ordinary moments special, of being intimate, and of getting downright comfy. There is a lot of speculation as to why Danes put so much emphasis on making home a perfect escape but it generally boils down to the fact that the weather is often terrible, there is little to do, and going out to eat is rather expensive. To compensate, they heighten the experiences of everyday activities and find joy in even the smallest things. I often think of Mindfulness when reading about hygge, as they are built on similar pillars.
Based on these definitions and speculations, I imagine the reason that my mother and I (and many people that we know) are already hygge-ing because we are not just American, but we are New Englanders. If weather and low funds ultimately created hygge then of course New Englanders are naturals! Why else do you think Yankee Candle is such a big deal to us? We love staying home and being cozy, there’s no doubt about that.
Why New York?
Listen, anyone can take these tips and use them anywhere, but I just find that the people confined to city lifestyles (read: few trees, very busy) are the ones who are most likely doing very little in the way of hygge and are probably the ones who could benefit most from it. Now on to it…
Take it Easy
Hygge is a feeling and it takes time to cultivate it. Rushing it or forcing it by going out and buying a bunch of stuff isn’t going to make you feel better and it certainly isn’t hygge. The whole notion is to take pleasure in the small things you already have or do and elevate them. Stay mindful. Apply the following tips to your life slowly. Light a candle once a week to start, maybe on Sunday nights, or set aside the first hour of every Saturday morning to reading. Start small and then grow.
If you don’t have the pleasure of working from home like some, you will have to face the commute home which is more often then not, grueling. You do not want to take bad energy into your safe place. The first thing I do after a long day is take my dog for a brisk walk without my cell phone. The disconnected, fresh-air bonding moment with my dog changes my thinking and eases me into my evening. If you don’t have a pooch, try getting off the train a stop earlier and walking home. Stop for some flowers or a warm tea and unwind your mind. No phone checking!
Make Home Your Haven
To properly hygge you have to go home and you have to stay there, so what your space feels like to you is an important part of the whole process. It should feel cozy and inviting. If you live with roommates, hygge your bedroom so it becomes your comfy cave of solitude. A good room is one that upon seeing it, you no longer have FOMO or the desire to leave it. You want to remain there for hours, totally blissful. Hygge objects bring you happiness; they give off warmth or are in colors that evoke warmth.
After walking my dog, the first thing I do once home is light the multiple candles around my apartment and turn on the string lights and LED candles I also have strewn about. I never turn on my overheard lights unless I’m in the kitchen (they’re SO harsh) and I switch into my comfiest clothes, including fuzzy socks. I leave blankets out for extra coziness. We all live in small places so there’s no need for you to go overboard with new fuzzy pillows and animal hide purchases. Take what you have and work with it! Here are some items that are easy to have in an apartment to create a hygge environment:
Candles… literally everywhere
Clothes that relax you
Lavender oil for your sheets and/or blankets
Framed photographs of your favorite people
Items from your childhood home
Favorite books on display
Succulent plants or cacti
Enjoy the Moment
Hygge is not just your environment but how you treat yourself and others in that environment. Take time to pause and enjoy even the smallest of moments. Indulge in being alive. Have a special tea or cocoa on hand, pick up a brand new book to read, take a long hot bath, massage your partner’s shoulders, share stories with your friends. Relish these moments as if they are the only time you have to enjoy them. The list of hygge moments is endless, because really it is what makes you happy, but here are some of my personal favorites that work in the city.
If someone invites you to dinner, invite them over instead for hot tea and intimate conversation
Have a special mug you only use for cocoa
Take a walk the moment it starts snowing
Spend a Saturday reading in bed
Bake a favorite treat that has less than 10 ingredients (or maybe even 5!)
Turn off your phone for an hour
Turn off your phone for longer than an hour
Stay in your own neighborhood for a whole weekend, cook dinner each night
Put a crackling log video on your TV
Instead of going to a bar, have everyone over for mulled wine and a board game. Make it an BYOFS (Bring Your Own Fuzzy Socks) event
Pop popcorn the old school way
Take a freakin’ nap!
Eat comfort food
Call your mom and get an old recipe…and then make it
Sure, I’d love to hygge everyday, all day. But we have jobs. We have goals. We have lives. I get it. We live in a big bad city with friends all over the place. I am not advising you to stop doing the things that make you tick or make you successful, I am advising you to set time aside in your insane schedule to just be. Remember what it was like when you were a kid and had no way to get anywhere? Couldn’t leave the house? Couldn’t drive? With a lack of options, you found ways to pass the time that made you happy. You read, you colored, you made forts, and played games with your siblings. You made up languages and took naps and dreamed of your future. We still need time for these endeavors! If all that sounds overwhelming for now, at least find one way to hygge during the day. Yes, it’s possible. Here are my favorites:
Take a 5-10 minute walk during your work day
Look at the people in the coffee shop, not at your phone
Sit on your couch for 10 minutes at the end of your day before doing anything else
Hold hands with your partner on your commute
Flirt with the stranger that held the door open for you
Try and memorize a poem while on the subway
Lotion your hands at every opportunity
Light a candle at your desk (I really do this now)
Decorate your cube or space to the most your company allows
Take your heels off under your desk (cheeky, right?)
Listen to your coworker after you ask them how they are…really, truly listen
Have one piece of chocolate and savor it
Melt a chocolate in your morning coffee
Keep a special tea in your desk drawer
I know we aren’t Danish. I know we are busy. But enjoying the smallest moments in your life and really, truly, taking the time to honor them is an important part of being happy. Stop yearning after the yacht, and enjoy the toy boat in your bathtub.