A few months ago, during a stressful hospitalization for my daughter Lily (who has had many surgeries, chronic illnesses, and hospitalizations), I started journaling.
I picked up a whimsical planner in the Children’s Hospital gift shop and began writing all things that crossed my mind. I browsed Pinterest for quotes that resonated with my pain and worry, but also brought hope.
That’s when I came across a Danish word on Pinterest that grabbed my attention. It was “Hygge,” pronounced “Hwuu-Geh”—a word that means “Coziness.” It is a also a feeling more than a word, a “ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures and making the ordinary more meaningful, beautiful, and special.”
I’ve heard many clichés about enjoying life’s simple pleasures and none have really resonated with me. But this remarkable word and concept suddenly took a seat in my heart and poured a cup of tea.
I instantly thought of my cozy home—how I had worked with this new, smaller space after my divorce to make it comfortable for myself and my kids. I needed a sanctuary space after leaving what was home, ending my marriage, and suddenly losing my mom to cancer.
I purchased soft, colorful pillows to cover my bed so my boys could retreat there and play, read, or use their tablets. I bought zebra finches I have always wanted, and put them in a house-shaped cage near a big plant, next to a pretty water fountain, over a bookshelf. There are loads of books, puzzles, and board games nestled on shelves in our living room. They are decorated with bowls that have collections of outdoor things the boys have given me, like flower petals, small sticks, pebbles, acorns, feathers, pine cones, and more. This new home of ours has been likened by friends of mine to a beach-side cottage, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
But…even in this wonderful home, I get overwhelmed and become anxious, snappy, irritated, and sad more often than I would like. Hygge reminded me to not only make a cozy space for my little family, but to make the space and energy between two people more accessible.
To me, this meant I needed to climb out of my constant thoughts and sit with my children. I needed to snuggle them even more. They needed me to listen better. Social media needed to be non-existent whenever possible. (I’m still not great about this so don’t go and guilt yourself.)
At the hospital, I also knew I had been as attentive of a mom to Lily that I could be. I often bring things from her room with us to help her feel more comfortable. I am not afraid to pepper doctors and nurses with ideas or questions to help her feel better. But I am often stuck in my head like any other day, looking for the next positive or negative thing to plan for or attend to.
I then decided to put my phone away and hold Lily’s hand longer. She seemed to only want my company, so we didn’t allow as many people to visit. It was unusual for me not to ask people to come, or to constantly update her progress online—but I stayed quieter so she could heal. When the time came and she was more stable, we prepared for people and upcoming transitions.
With the upcoming holidays I still get anxious. There are so many people to make sure are okay, have eaten, and aren’t leaving too early, or don’t actually dislike me, or maybe smile more when I am not in the room. Some of this really could be all in my head and adding to my anxiety. Regardless, these same sentiments are echoed by my friends with concern for their families, and I’ve seen many articles written about this exact issue.
How do we remedy this? Yep: Hygge.
Let’s have cozy hearts and meaningful moments. Let’s make our listening ears more available than our opinions. Why don’t we eat our family meal with intent and gratitude, instead of in a hurry? Why don’t we make it a point to do what matters to someone else? Even if that might be an annoying tradition—look for a way to find meaning and purpose in it. Have a real conversation with a family member and find out something about them you never knew before. Ask them how they are really doing. Laugh. Giggle. Embrace the awkwardness, if even for a minute.
But also, in all this, have grace for yourselves. Prepare for the holidays with self-care. Take that bath, read that book, take that walk. You’ve got to reacquaint yourself with what cozy is, so you can also give the feeling away to others.