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Two young children exploring in the woods wrapped up in winter coats and wellington boots

Love the darker nights and shorter days

Tackle winter blues the Danish way!

While many of us love the drawing in of winter nights and the anticipation of Christmas, for some people, the arrival of winter marks the start of a season of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Studies have shown that as sunlight lessens, so too do our levels of serotonin.

Signs that SAD could be affecting your mental health include

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • feeling irritable
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • low self-esteem
  • tearfulness
  • feeling stressed or anxious
  • a reduced sex drive
  • becoming less sociable

Masters of happiness

The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen is an independent think-tank focusing on wellbeing, happiness and quality of life, exploring the cause and effect of human happiness. It discovered Denmark consistently ranks among the happiest nations in the world, despite the long winters they have.

The Danes ability to offset SAD has been attributed to the fact their culture centres around a concept called hygge. And while it’s difficult to translate what this word means into English directly, it is often explained as cosiness, intimacy, and happiness in the small moments of every day. With SAD affecting one in 15 people in the UK between September and April, what can we learn from hygge to ease seasonal depression and the winter blues and support mental health?

Hygge centres around feelings of wellbeing, creating a warm atmosphere, feeling happy and relaxed and enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Candlelight is also an integral part of hygge, that helps create the right atmosphere for all the other activities to take place.

How to create instant hygge

Make the right atmosphere

Turn down the lights, get out the candles, and spark up the fire or log burner

Be present

Live in the moment. Switch off the phones and TV and get out the board games– it’s time to reconnect

Pleasure is key

Savour a coffee, indulge in a chocolate cookie or piece of cake – all hygge essentials

Embrace equality

Think “us” rather than “me”. Share the tasks and the attention

Be grateful

Drink it all in – every day holds some beauty. Go for a long walk in nature

Create harmony

Work together. It’s not a competition

Comfort comes first

Take a break. Snuggle in woollen jumpers. Think soft furnishings, curled up with a hot drink and a book by the fire

Call a truce

No drama. Politics are for another day

Grow togetherness

Build meaningful relationships. Family comes first and treasure small groups of close friends

Find your shelter

This is a place of security and peace. Hygge happens at home or in a cosy local coffee shop. Find a ‘hyggekrog’, or nook, and curl up

Think: playing your favourite slow music, home baking or making preserves, surrounding yourself with books, things made of wood, bringing plants and nature inside, surrounding yourself with ceramics, a good pair of woollen socks, getting out the photo album or writing in a notebook, reading through old letters, filling your home with objects that are tactile, vintage, plenty of blankets and cushions. Try mushroom foraging, roasting chestnuts and holding potluck dinners (where everyone brings a dish to share).

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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies. Sources

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad
www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/

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