How to Survive Winter in the City
In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
– Albert Camus
Winter in South Africa
You’d think living in Africa, where we have eternal sunshine, would be all sunny and warm and we go frolicking in the Savannah while drinking refreshing ciders because, you know, it’s hot and we need some care-free way to cool down (insert any local beer ad here) but I feel that it’s my civic duty to tell you that YOU ARE WRONG! Usually you’d be right but not in a Jozi winter. No siree.
I’m sitting here with multiple layers of clothing on in my study, shivering as if I’ve been left out in the wilderness to die (I haven’t, I’m quite privileged) because South African homes aren’t built for our two or three months of Game of Thrones-like winter. Okay so I slightly over-exaggerate. It’s more like a fridge – cold but bright. But I mean, it’s been frikken snowing! We see snow maybe like once every 3 or 4 years. And when I say snow, what I mean to say is white drizzle but hey, we’ll take what we can get.
So I sit here writing to you, my faceless reader, wanting to share how I’ve survived this awful, awful ordeal so far. And I have one, not so simple word for you: Hygge.
You see, I live in Joburg, the economical heart of my country if not all of Southern Africa. And we have to deal with a lot of kak (ie. shit) from electrical shortages to political upheaval. It’s not an easy life that we’ve chosen. The rest of the country don’t get it but we love our city. And I’m sure it’s the same with every major city in every country of the world. The hustle and bustle keep us busy and motivated, but in order to keep ourselves relatively stress-free, we need to find balance, and that’s where Hygge comes in.
Say what now?
Let me say it again: Hoo…gah… Don’t stress if you have absolutely no idea what it means; It’s a Danish word so it’s difficult to say it I guess in English.
At the end of last year, I came across this concept that has taken social media by storm. I have completely fallen in love with it and it’s something that I’ve tried to incorporate into my everyday life.
Now, I won’t go into too much detail about how it originated, if you want more information on that I highly recommend that you read the book, “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking. He delves into this wonderful idea and how the Danish use it in their day-to-day living. It’s a visually pleasing book and very easy to read, but even if you don’t read it, it’s an idea that’s really easy to incorporate into daily life.
Wiking explains that you know hygge when you feel it, but that some of the key ingredients are togetherness, relaxation, indulgence, presence, and comfort.
According to the 2016 World Happiness Report, Denmark comes in as the world’s happiest country and Meik believes that the positive statistic can be attributed this phenomenon. “The Danes are exceptionally good at decoupling wealth and well-being,” he says. “We focus on the small things that really matter, including spending more quality time with friends and family and enjoying the good things in life.”
The true essence of hygge is the pursuit of everyday happiness.
– Meik Wiking
So what is Hygge?
Quite simply, Hygge is the name of the feeling you get when you’re feeling cosy, but not just physically. It’s a mental state of being, creating a life and environment for yourself that allows you to feel safe, comfortable and opens up a space that let’s you appreciate the little things in life.
Right, so back to big-city life and needing balance; hygge creates an awareness to come down from a roller coaster ride. Walk into your house and feel the stress ebb away. I live my life as simply and as intentionally as possible so this was such a great find for me. I walk into my flat surrounded by books, wooden furniture, soft lamp light and covered by my blanket that I knitted myself.
What does it involve?
See, here’s the most wonderful part, all you need are the things you already love! How great?! So here are what I think are the corner stones of Hygge, but please my friend, do yourself a favour and read the book or browse through Pinterest because ultimately, it is a feeling more than anything else.
- Create an atmosphere that you want to spend time in. Create a nook, turn down the lights, bring out the candles and twinkle lights. Listen to Gregory Alan Isakov.
- Be present; enjoy the moment. Put your phone down. Be here now. Acknowledge the heat from your teacup that’s keeping your fingers warm. 🙂
- Make space for gratitude. I will preach to the heavens about how important it is to be grateful in order to be happy, especially in winter when there are so many that are less fortunate than us that really have to brave the cold.
- Comfort is a biggy. Bring out the fluffy slippers, comfy pjs, thick blankets, light the fire (or heater), create an environment that will help to relax and feel at ease.
- Include your tribe, Hygge is about togetherness. Happiness is always better when it’s shared.
There’s a lot more that Hygge has to offer but for me, those were the things that remind me to cherish my days. What struck me the most was that I didn’t have to buy anything or change much, just acknowledge myself and my space. So do your favourite activities, be in another’s company or happy on your own. My current favourite activity is knitting; very hygge for me.
This is how I survive winter and the humdrum of city life. I do my best to appreciate every day, because in the end, it really is what you decide to make of them that counts.
Hygge has been called everything from ‘the art of intimacy’, ‘coziness of the soul’ and ‘the absence of annoyance’ to ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things’, ‘cozy togetherness’ and my personal favourite, ‘cocoa by candlelight’.
– Meik Wiking