Hygge and Seasonal Affective Disorder

I’ll never forget the day my husband told me that the weather has absolutely no affect on his mood.

What must that be like?

When it’s sunny, I’m cheerful and I get lots of things accomplished. When it’s rainy and cold and dark, I’m the emotional equivalent of a baked potato still sitting in the fridge from two weeks ago. And I cannot understand on a fundamental level what life would be like without the seasonal ebbs and flows that affect my mental well being.

This year has been particularly difficult in the Seasonal Affective Disorder department, and I began researching some of the ways to relieve my symptoms. Most articles recommend taking Vitamin D, using a lightbox, etc. – and I just wasn’t feeling very inspired. But then I remembered a podcast episode I’d listened to earlier this year on the Hygge lifestyle- and the inspiration began to flow.

The word Hygge is Danish and is defined by the website HyggeHouse as “acknowledging a feeling or moment…as cozy, charming, or special”. The philosophy is to live your life with consciousness, being present, and leaning into comforts whenever possible.

For example, Hygge is often associated with things like warm blankets, candles, and hot drinks. Togetherness with close family and friends. Sharing meals with loved ones. All those simple pleasures that don’t require a lot of effort, but can lead to a sweet appreciation for life’s current season. And it’s no surprise that the lifestyle originated in Scandinavia, where long and cold winters drove people to search for a better way to endure those months.

So in the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to set aside my existential dread for the next dreary day, and instead to take advantage of all the tools I have available to me. Last Saturday, when the day dawned bleak and overcast, I lit a candle in every room of my apartment. It created more light, and made everything smell like caramel and spice. On an especially frigid weeknight, I decided to make a big pot of chicken soup for myself and my husband to share. And taking hot baths has become my little oasis away from whatever weather might be going on outside.

While winter will probably always be a more challenging season for my mental health, I can definitely see improvements when I lean into what good things it can bring. After all, one can only drink so many cups of hot tea when it’s 85 degrees outside.

So you need me, I’ll be curled up with that cup of hot tea and a good book. Doing my best to warm my own little world.

If you’d like to learn more about Hygge, this is the original podcast episode that caught my attention:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/self-helpless/id1251196416?mt=2&i=1000403852323

The website http://hyggehouse.com/ is also an excellent resource!

Once I can find it at my local Half Price Books, I’ll definitely be investing in this book as well:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30045683

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