The Hidden Mindfulness Lesson of Hygge

I was driving home after doing errands Saturday, and as I sat at the stoplight before my street, I thought of something I wanted to share with you about “hygge”…. that Danish ritual of coziness that’s become so popular in the UK and now the US.

Hygge is all about drinking in moments of coziness …

  • Both the physical kind like bundling up in your warmest socks and sweater and enjoying a book next to a roaring fire ….
  • And the interpersonal kind like the warm feeling of happiness when connecting with a dear friend over coffee, or playing a board game with some of your favorite people.

Just imagining those moments can lift your mood. And those scenes are even more appealing y when it’s cold and dreary outside right?

Hygge moments are joyful, mindful moments. And a big element of mindful joy is often its contrast to moments that are not at all joyful.

It’s much cozier to cuddle by a fire, when it’s cold and snowy outside. The contrast of the difficulties of a long cold winter, brings the mindful joy of warmth and connection into a higher definition.

That’s what struck me at the stoplight.

I love my neighborhood and usually I’m happily anticipating my arrival home when I’m there. But in this moment on Saturday, my attention got stuck on how grey and sad the buildings and scene looked.  

I got curious about it, and realized that I must be feeling kind of down, and consciously acknowledged that yes, it’s been grey and cold and dreary for nearly a week … I must be more bothered than I realized.

I felt compassion for that. And soon after, as I opened the door to our warm little house, I felt an especially visceral feeling of gratitude and happiness for our cozy, quirky home.

This wasn’t the kind of obligatory guilt-ridden ‘gratitude’ that we can strain for sometimes. It was an authentic little moment of joy.

To me the lesson is this: When you are more conscious of the full breadth of your feelings (including stress), you expand your capacity to authentically feel the good feelings.

Without consciously opening to my experience of sadness about the dreary moment, I couldn’t have felt the deep appreciation for the contrasting moment of hygge.

So that’s this week’s little plug for giving your full emotional experience a bit more attention. You can’t get to the some of the best benefits of mindfulness without it.

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