Beat the Gloom: Embrace Coziness to Be Happier in Winter
Here in the northern hemisphere, winter has just begun and the anticipation can often imbue negative reactions among even the most positive of us. Thinking about the chill, the layers, the boots, the slush can make you feel like two different people. There's the sun-loving, frolicking "summer you" and the frustrated, freezing, depressed "winter you". Some people genuinely experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the most appropriately acronymed disorder. However, outside of true depression or low vitamin D, most of us feel gloomy at some point during the winter.
Scandinavian countries encourage a culture of camaraderie and closeness that sustains them through their long, dark winters. In Denmark, it's called "hygge," in Norway it's "koselig". The terms translate roughly to coziness, but embody a host of emotions that have no single word in English. It's the feeling of warmth, of sipping coffee with a friend, of a calm, quiet mind and atmosphere. Coziness is a longstanding goal at all times of year in Scandinavia, but winter ushers in the high season. I like the idea of creating inviting surroundings and having a welcoming attitude to winter, rather than dreading its arrival. After all, we've reached the 1 degree Celsius mark on the way to the 2 degree limit, so who knows how much longer we'll enjoy winter as we know it.
This season, bring some coziness to your life by surrounding you and your loved ones with warmth and cheer. Just as you transition your wardrobe for colder temperatures, do the same with your home and rituals.
A simple place to begin is with warmth and light. If you aren't fortunate enough to have a fireplace, try candles. Look for 100% soy wax candles. Traditional candles are made from the petroleum byproduct paraffin which, in addition to being nonrenewable, emits fumes and soot into your home. That's just not koselig.
If you have small children or don't want an open flame, try flameless candles or using lamps instead of overhead lighting. Switching to LED lights like this Cree soft white bulb will save you money throughout the year.
Time to get your cozy clothes out! There's something so nice about coming in from the freezing elements and changing into snuggly sweats and slippers. I'm fortunate to have steam heat here in NYC, but I'm aware heating costs can get expensive for many people. Turn the thermostat down a few degrees and practice the art of coziness with layers of socks, a hat, or a comfy robe. Below I've shared mostly cotton options to keep things vegan.
Now that you're dressed for the occasion, create a winter ritual around warm foods and drinks. Embrace warming spices like turmeric and ginger. Try out recipes that simmer or roast for long cooking times to warm your home with the secondhand heat. Enjoy lingering over hot cocoa or warm tea with friends. Invest in a zero waste system that works for your beverage lifestyle.
In your comfy clothes, warm beverage in hand, get tucked in and wrapped up for a good book or conversation with loved ones. Resist the urge to go straight to Netflix and instead wind down the day with music or a quiet activity.
Your winterized home might include piles of blankets close at hand, soft pillows, and warm rugs lining the floor. Find vintage blankets on Etsy or learn to knit your own (another quiet activity useful in winter). Don't think this means staying in all winter though — the coziness indoors will seem all the sweeter when you return from a brisk walk or snowball fight.
Rather than dreading the chill of the season, take a cue from nature and embrace winter as a time to slow down and recharge. Enjoy the seasonal holidays and the good cheer that accompanies them. Take time for friends and a moment of coziness each day and, as Scandinavians have long known, winter won't seem so gloomy after all.
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