It’s snowing outside, and all anyone wants to do is bundle up in a blanket, sip hot chocolate, and read. Maybe we’ll venture outside later to build a fort and throw snowballs or go sledding. But for now, we’re happy to be warm and comfortable inside.
The Danes have a word for what we’re feeling. It’s hygge (HUE-gah) or, in English, coziness. It occurs when we engage in low-stress activities that reinforce a sense of warmth and safety. Often, it involves feeling connected and comfortable with the people around us or, if we’re alone, with ourselves.
Studies have shown that practicing hygge lowers stress and increases wellbeing. Children feel more relaxed and self-confident. They may exhibit better social emotional control. And they can cope better with uncertainty in their daily lives if they experience regular periods of coziness at home.
Hygge begins with the creation of a comfortable physical environment. Soft, warm mood lighting works better than bright LED or fluorescent bulbs. Soft cushions and pillows provide places to curl up. Textured blankets caress young bodies and keep them warm. Relaxing music soothes and chases away worries. Gauzy curtains draped over a table or between chairs signals a place to hide away.
Relaxing scents add to the ambience. Light a scented candle or use an essential oils diffuser. Lavender is known for its relaxing properties, as is bergamot (also found in Earl Grey tea). Use scent-infused soaps to carry a relaxing smell with you throughout your day. Since people have varied reactions to different scents, invite children to try out several before they settle on one that works for them. If they have sensitive skin, spray a cloth for them to sniff instead.
Elements that provoke a sense of connection with the natural world are also helpful. Twinkly string lights or reflective stars on the ceiling delight young children and intuitively suggest they have a place in the universe. Dried flowers and natural woven mats in muted colors bring pleasant aspects of the outdoors inside. Crystals or geodes point to the treasures one can find when burrowing deep into the earth.
Take time to see the space through your child’s eyes as well. Include items in their favorite colors. Invite them to place their favorite stuffed animals in a hygge den. Stock a low shelf with books that they already love and others you think they’ll enjoy. Ask them what else would make the space comfy cozy and add at least some of the things they identify.
As you imagine what will promote family coziness, don’t forget special beverages and comfort foods. Stock flavored teas, coffees, hot chocolate, and/or apple cider for sipping on a cold day, or make smoothies when it’s warm. Bake cookies or tarts together, or serve warm grains (like oatmeal or grits) with your favorite toppings. Collaborate on a baked potato, mac and cheese, or personal pizzas bar. Just remember to keep it simple and low-key so everyone (including you!) enjoys the experience.