Our series “Taking Care of You” focuses on self-care practices, tips for making wellness part of your daily routine, and advice on channeling positivity. In this article, find ways to beat the winter blues with attention to hygge and uplifting activities.

Spring is not quite in the air yet. With weeks to go before it’s officially a new season, and the end of the winter tends to linger, engaging in self-care is a must. If anyone knows how to capitalize on winter, it’s the Scandinavians. “We go to work or school in the dark, we watch the sun from behind a window, and the light disappears before we head back home,” says Oslo, Norway, resident Johnny Van Duong, a project manager in civil engineering.

How do Van Duong and his fellow Scandinavians beat the winter blues? They practice hygge, (pronounced something like \HEW-guh\), which means creating a cozy environment and enjoying simple comforts.

With the winters being quite long and dark, we all need some extra care and the classic winter hygge happens with lots of cozy blankets.”

Katinka Friis

Public Relations & Press Manager

VisitDenmark

During the winter season, Scandinavians emphasize cooking, as preparing food is more satisfying than a meal pulled from a delivery bag. Engagement is found in stimulating entertainment that doesn’t come with a screen like puzzles, crafts, and reading. Winter sports are not only invigorating but a way of life. It’s not uncommon to see a neighbor telemarking to a friend’s house to deliver a homemade care package.

Pictures of woolen socks, reading by the fire, and activities that promote comfort and warmth are heavily promoted on social media. “With the winters being quite long and dark, we all need some extra care and the classic winter hygge happens with lots of cozy blankets,” says Katinka Friis, public relations and press manager for VisitDenmark.

Here, try out six mood-boosting winter practices to follow based on hygge.

1. Cozy days

Van Duong regularly engages in Fredagshygge or Søndagshygge, which directly translates to Fridaycoziness and Sundaycoziness. On Fridays, friends gather for a taco or pizza dinner and socialize in a comfortable atmosphere like someone’s home or a restaurant. Sundays are more robust if the weather allows it. One of Van Duong’s favorite Søndagshygge activities is cross-country skiing. “We’ll camp somewhere, light a bonfire, grill sausages, and have a winter lunch/picnic with seats dug in the snow,” he says.

2. Cabin culture

Cabin culture is a Norwegian winter hygge ritual that is spent at cabin retreats to escape the demands of work stress and the obsessive connection to digital devices. “We appreciate the quality time we get to spend with friends and family,” says Van Duong. Cabin culture activities include building a fire, playing board games, chopping wood, baking, and lighting candles. “You wouldn’t have that during the summer, would you?” Van Duong adds.

3. Just add flowers and plants

If there’s one way to bring harbingers of a warmer season into the home, it’s with flowers and plants, which contribute to hygge practices. By having anything from an elaborate arrangement to easy-to-care-for succulents, their color, beauty, and scent will emit joy. “I love having flowers,” says Dr. Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist and author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power tribute to Your Anxiety who recommends partaking in the spirit of hygge. “Flowers, plants, or an herb garden is a way to bring nature indoors and elevate a mood.”

Winters are challenging for Valerie Ghitelman, 1-800-Flowers.com vice president of product development, sourcing, and design because she cannot spend time in her garden. How does Ghitelman solve limited time in nature? Fresh flowers, of course, and having elements of nature indoors. “Hygge is who I am,” she says. “I bring home colorful flowers at least once a week to help me get through the gloomy months of winter,” she says. Here’s another idea — guarantee a regular cycle of flower deliveries by treating yourself to a monthly flower subscription.

4. Drink up

Nurturing beverages are part of the hygge ritual because they provide comfort and warmth. The act of drinking tea is a way to embrace the quiet and peaceful solitude of winter, says Emeric Harney, marketing director of Harney Tea, who enjoys the spirit of hygge. “Look at teatime as ‘me time,'” he says. “A time to engage in comfort activities with a cuddly throw, your favorite human or fur friend, and a good book.”

And then there’s the other beloved winter drink — hot cocoa. The sweet, warm taste of hot chocolate lifts the spirits of people of all ages. “Personally, for me, beating winter has to be that hot cup of cocoa with extra whipped cream and mini-marshmallows after getting inside and escaping the cold,” says Van Duong.

5. Outdoor fitness is foremost

Hygge also involves outdoor fitness, which promotes feelings of positivity. “Even on the coldest days, the Danes bring hygge down to the harbor front or the beach, where they jump in the icy waters and reheat with their thermos filled with coffee or hot chocolate and some indulgent baked goods from the local bakeries,” says Friis.

Dr. Carmichael explains that fitness is needed to increase dopamine levels, which are lower in the winter. These neurotransmitters emit pleasure to the body, thus placing increased importance on activity. “Fitness gives us that efficacy to give us control of ourselves and bodies,” she says.

But it’s so cold out! Try these tips . . .

Venturing outside in the cold is likely to be met with some hesitancy but, once you’re outside and moving, you’ll feel the benefits.

One of Dr. Carmichael’s preferred hygge activities is winter walks for exercise and outdoor exposure. She recommends having a private scavenger hunt, like looking for 10 signs of winter. Homing in on icicles or how your breath freezes in the air have a wondrous, mood-enhancing effect.

Further challenge yourself by wearing a weighted vest or listening to high-energy music so you can get that activity boost and connect with nature at the same time.

Social activity

How can you bring in a social element to your fitness routine? Dr. Carmichael says further multitask your winter walks by asking a friend to join you, which is beneficial since we become less social during winter. This way you connect with friends, stay fit and are outdoors.

6. Positive engagement

Hibernation also has its benefits, notes Dr. Carmichael. Hygge can be achieved by consciously sleeping in. Make a delicious stew. Plan your spring and summer plans. “Find out when Memorial Day is and research state parks to visit festivals in your area or a great site for a picnic. Targeting dates help your brain realize that winter will not last forever,” she says.

Despite the climate, Scandinavia ranks as the world’s happiest place to live. By making a point to include uplifting activities daily, such as lighting candles, fresh flowers, fitness, and preparing delicious meals — winter becomes a more welcomed time of year.

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Author

Jacqueline deMontravel is 1-800-Flowers.com’s senior editor of floral and gifting. She is also an editor, writer, designer, artist and stylist. Previously, Jacqueline was the editorial director of Engaged Media’s Lifestyle group, overseeing such publications as Cottages & Bungalows, Romantic Homes, Yum, Seaside Style, Cottage White, French Style, Happy Modern and Rooms. Formerly the editor of Country magazine, she held editor positions at Self and GQ. She has been a contributor with Hearst's Harper's Bazaar and Black Book magazines.

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