The Downtime Agenda

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  • Words — Julie Haslam
  • Images — Marnie Hawson

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), encapsulates a feeling of warmth, safety, comfort, connection and shelter – all things true to our heart at The Downtime Agenda. After a summer break spent immersing myself into the understanding of hygge, here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned.

Hygge, Danish for cosy.

The concept of Hygge is not new. In fact, the Danes, who are considered to be among the happiest people in the world, have enjoyed hygge for hundreds of years. With the over-worked, over-connected and hectic world in which we reside, it’s no wonder that more and more of us are looking to the Danes for inspiration and guidance.

So what exactly is it? In “The Book of Hygge”, Louise Thomsen Brits describes Hygge as an uncomplicated practice that engages us, keeping us attuned to our surroundings, reminding us to be authentic, present and to focus on people over things. It’s essentially about creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with the people that we love. It is linked to the idea that real wealth is not what we can accumulate but what we have to share. It’s really all that we have been banging on about since we launched last year.

So, how do you incorporate this wonderful art of living well into your life? Here are my suggestions:

Create a calm home
Hygge begins in the home. Create a space that feels good to be in, a space that is down to earth, a space that you can curl up in and rest. Incorporate signature pieces that make you feel happy. Get rid of the clutter, limit the use of technology, choose furniture that is comfortable, invest in plants, burn candles and use the nice sheets!

Start small
Busy-ness is inevitable and dedicating a regular day to hygge might not be realistic for many of us. So, think of small ways to incorporate little moments of downtime into your day – it might be starting your morning with a cup of tea, an extra soft throw you keep on the sofa or a ten minute daily walk away from the office.

Make time for the ones you love
Hygge is about human connection and kinship. It might be your partner, children, parents, friends or someone of the four-legged variety – whoever it is, make time for them as part of your weekly routine. Go for a walk, share a meal or snuggle up on the sofa together. Just ensure that when you are with them, that you are present and paying them attention. Turn off your devices and put away any distractions so you can actually interact.

Embrace nature
Although hygge is about creating a warming space inside, I often think there is nothing better for the mind than simply getting outside. So go hiking, surfing, fishing, ocean swimming, skiing, or simply get out in your own garden. Wherever you are, be mindful about it, taking a moment to observe the landscape and appreciate the sounds and smells.

Practice a hobby
Hobbies allow you to switch off and refocus the mind. I LOVE Netflix but watching TV usually makes me feel more drained than refreshed. If that’s you, try turning off the TV and pick up something you used to love to do but don’t have time for anymore. Crafty hobbies such as knitting or woodwork are perfect to teach yourself and help to calm your mind.

Slow down
We’re always rushing or have to be somewhere. And if we’re doing one thing, we’re always thinking about the next thing on the to-do list. Slow down, focus on one thing at a time and really enjoy each moment for what it is. When we become too busy, hygge disappears.

Hygge Isn’t Just for Winter
Whilst hygge is frequently associated with cosiness, and the Danes have much longer Winters than we do, it is a mindset that can be embraced all year round. So take some time to sit in the sun or under a tree with an icy cold drink, eat dinner outside, go swimming, head to the local park or beach and chill.

Elevate the everyday
Due to the increasingly stressful lives we lead, it’s easy to think we need to ‘escape’ the everyday to experience true relaxation. Hygge fights against this notion demonstrating that overall wellbeing can actually be enhanced by making small changes to everyday environments, relieving the need to escape at all. Happiness and comfort can be found in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life, the tasks we often find mundane and boring. Sweeping the front door step to make our homes more inviting for a friend, cooking a meal for our family, reading to children or walking the dog – these are the things we often take for granted.