Hygge, the Danish word used to describe an approach to living that has a quality of cozy contentment, evolved as a way to embrace and celebrate the cold, dark Scandinavian winter months. I live in Maine, where one must also befriend long and frigid winter to thrive, so the concept of hygge is something near and dear to my heart.

What kinds of images and thoughts pop into your mind when you think of hygge? Often people envision candles, crackling fires, fuzzy sweaters and socks, hot drinks and soups, mulling spices, comfort foods, blankets and throws, and fairy lights.  All these snuggly and homey things are associated with hygge, no doubt, but when you boil it down, living the hygge life is ultimately not about things. It requires nothing more than a shift in mind-set.

The art of hygge is really about living sensually through intention. It’s about lifting the spirit and enjoying life through slowing down, by being present in the now, and by experiencing each moment to the fullest. This is where ritual can come into play, to encourage and enhance this type of mindful lifestyle. There are many ways we can weave simple rituals into our daily living. They needn’t be pricey, and they don’t have to take too much time or effort—unless, of course, you want them to.

HERE’S A LIST OF SOME OF MY FAVORITE SIMPLE HYGGE RITUALS:

Light a candle. Enjoy the act of lighting it and take time to stare into the flickering flame. Bathe in the cheery light and give in to the meditative and relaxing feeling it evokes.

Sip a hot drink. Pumpkin-spice coffee, cinnamon tea, nourishing homemade bone broth or vegetable broth, hot cider with a cinnamon stick, or maybe a mulled red wine, hot toddy or buttered rum cocktail in the evening. Warm lavender milk is good at bedtime—add a pinch of dried lavender blossoms and a dollop of honey to your favorite milk and warm it over the stove.

Decorate with a hygge flair. Twinkling lights in windows, on branches, and in jars. Clusters of candles, layers of blankets, rich fabrics, pillows, and sheepskin throws on the couch.

Take a stroll through a wintry landscape. Lengthy cold winters mean lots of indoor time, so be sure to get outdoors now and then to get the blood flowing and to appreciate the beauty of new-fallen snow and the quiet of the landscape gone to sleep.

Create a hygge meal. Think winter soups, roasted root vegetables, homemade breads and pies, hot mulled cider. Light a candle at the table and enjoy a simple, hearty meal by its warm and radiant glow.

Relax with family and friends. Keep it simple and low-key. Invite a friend over for a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine, and enjoy each other’s company. Organize a game night, do puzzles together, watch a movie, or binge-watch a Netflix series.

Get cozy with a book. Light a fire and curl into your favorite armchair with a soft fleecy blanket, a good book, your pet, and a large mug of something hot. One of my all-time favorite winter reads is the novel The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

Indulge in bedtime pleasures. Relax in an herbal bath. Wear fleece pajamas. Sip moon milk (coconut milk or your favorite nut milk warmed with nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, ginger, and a bit of honey). Hunker down under layers of soft, warm blankets.

Fill your home with the fragrant smells of the season. Every winter I craft a stovetop potpourri that smells like the holidays. Oftentimes, I’ll enjoy the ritual of making it in one of my cauldrons (the cast iron one), simmering the brew over a tealight.

Simmering Winter Potpourri

Ingredients:
Small saucepan (or cast iron cauldron with tealight for warming)
Navel orange and/or lemon slices (I keep a stash of dried orange slices for making potpourris)
1 cup of fresh cranberries
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
A few pinches of each of the following: ground cloves (a few whole cloves can be substituted), nutmeg, and cardamom
Other possibilities: fresh pine sprigs, apple slices, blood orange, dried orange peel, pomegranate, grapefruit, a dash of vanilla extract, star anise, bay leaves

Directions: Place ingredients in the pot or cauldron and cover them with water, filling the vessel about three-quarters of the way. Simmer on low on the stove, or place a tealight underneath your cauldron, adding more water as necessary as it evaporates.

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