How to embrace the season – and yourself

By Charlie Jordin

This time of year is a challenging time for many of us – the excitement of Christmas and new year festivities has waned, and we still face long, dark nights and dropping temperatures before spring. So much so that the third Monday in January has become known as Blue Monday. But what can we learn from our northern neighbours, who brave harsher and longer winters?

The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hue-guh), embraced throughout Scandinavia, has erupted in popularity during the past six years. In its simplest form, it means cosiness in our surroundings, and the sense of belonging and warmth we feel around loved ones. Crucially, hygge isn’t a strict concept – it’s open to interpretation and can fit in with any lifestyle, wherever you live. 

Get moving

Going for regular walks in the countryside and connecting with nature is great for the body and mind and is an important part of the Scandinavian lifestyle.  Take a look at our tips for winter walks and get ready to explore the outdoors, whatever the temperature.

A family in distance out for a walk on a frosty and misty morning beside a river.
Enjoying a walk in your local green area can help lift your spirits. | Julia Gavin/Alamy

Eat, drink and be merry

During the winter months, life can feel lonely – especially if you’re part of a quiet rural community. Giving yourself time to relax and be social is an important aspect of the Scandi lifestyle – here are some hygge hints: 

  • Host supper with friends – extra points if it’s locally sourced food 
  • Hygge hiking? Experience nature together with a winter walk
  • Snuggle indoors with a film night 
  • Make friends for life by volunteering  
  • Join your local CPRE group and be welcomed into a wonderful local community of people who are equally passionate about the countryside  
Baking can be a delicious winter distraction | Lauren Gray

Love the planet

Striving to become more eco-friendly is another important aspect of the hygge lifestyle. While we might not be able to ski to work like some of our Scandinavian friends, swapping your car for a bike or public transport is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. We know that not everyone can live without a car at the moment, which is why we campaign for sustainable and reliable public transport for countryside communities.

Read more tips on tackling climate change within your rural community.

Lightbulb moments 

Opt for low-wattage bulbs – they’re better for the environment and your energy bills too. If you’re working from home during the day, try and get as much daylight in your home as you can – you could even try moving your desk next to a window. As it gets darker in the evenings, try using candles and lamps. This helps your eyes adjust to the light and will help aid sleep too.  

Charity begins at home

There is no better feeling than knowing you’re supporting an important cause. You can support charities by donating or volunteering in your spare time from home or in-person. We’d love to be that charity; you can make a donation online or find your perfect volunteer role.

A group of people with hedgelaying equipment standing next to a hedge in winter
CPRE volunteers during a 2019 hedgelaying project at Hogacre Common in Oxford’s Green Belt | CPRE

Go herbal

A milky mug of tea might be a British favourite but be mindful of your caffeine intake if you want to slow down in the evenings. Instead, give herbal tea a try. Ingredients like chamomile, lavender, valerian root and passionflower have been used to aid sleep and relaxation for centuries. 

Herbal tea has been a favourite for centuries, dating back to ancient Egyptian times | Nia Ramirez

Bring the outside in

Bring the outdoors inside by foraging décor. Fallen branches can be turned into wall-hangings, clothes hooks and even jewellery holders. Adding your favourite foraged branches to a vase is a simple way to create a hygge ambience. Remember, it’s illegal to take wood from a wood or forest and stick to foraging – you can also try your garden if you’re lucky enough to have one, or ask a friend or a neighbour. What might be for the green bin for them could be treasure for you!  

So if January is getting you down, take time to be kind to yourself and learn from our Scandi neighbours, let nature teach you how to hunker down and enjoy some hygge.

If hygge is not enough 

Don’t forget support is available if you need it:  

MIND has great advice on how to reach out for help.  

YANA (You Are Not Alone) provides confidential mental health support to those in farming or rural businesses. You can call their helpline on 0300 323 0400. 

Wrapping up warm and eating together encapsulates the joy of hygge Ethan Hu

Explainers

Dive deeper into the topics we care about with our handy explainer guides.