Hello gorgeous! Welcome to 2022. I wish I could say it’s a bright and beautiful new year, but we’re not there yet, are we? It’s -30 outside where I am, and my kids have yet to return to school due to the pandemic, and it just feels a little bit much. Anyone with me? For the record, my family is safe and healthy, and that puts us in a very privileged position. But I long for the days when that isn’t the absolute best we can hope for.
But all difficult times pass, and this will too, I promise. That light we’re waiting for? It’s definitely sparkling in the distance (I suspect it’s a springtime light). In the meantime, there are ways to make every day a little bit sweeter, a little bit gentler. This year, it’s all about luxury comfort … with a twist. And it doesn’t have to cost you a thing.
Let me introduce you to Hygge. You might already be familiar with it, but it’s the Scandinavian concept of finding comfort. It’s as hard to define as it is to pronounce. (Hoo-ga?) In The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (career goal?) tries to pin it down:
“Hygge has been called everything from ‘the art of creating 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.'”
Whatever it is, I want it. How to get it?
1. Comfort eating for health
What we eat goes a long way to providing comfort. The Danes basically eat their weight in cakes and chocolate, and I’m not saying that I don’t approve. Chocolate is essential to life. But, if you’re like me, you might have been overindulging in the Christmas sweets for what feels like years, and might want to lighten things up a bit. I don’t think you need to separate comfort and health when it comes to eating, though.
Especially when your body is craving good things, it’s important to give it what it wants. Find comfort in meals that are tasty and full of whole foods, and brightens your plate like a rainbow. Here are some easy, luxury swaps you can make to eat healthily and feel like you’re treating yourself.
- Switch up the cake for some fruit. Don’t roll your eyes at me. People used to not be able to eat fruit at all in the winter, so how amazing it is that we can? Seasonally, now is the time to indulge in tropical fruits, so I’m looking for pineapple, mango and passionfruit. Or go to the market and find something you’ve never had before.
- Craving a yummy oatmeal cookie? There’s something about oatmeal cookies that scream comfort. But I suggest giving a wholesome bowl of oatmeal a try instead. Even with delicious maple syrup to sweeten things up, it’s a lighter option than a cookie, more filling, and less addictive. Check out my recipe for apple cardamon oatmeal – I swear you won’t regret it.
- Healthy can be insanely delicious. Meet: the quinoa burrito bowl. I am obsessed. I love this dressing SO MUCH I just eat it with a spoon. Which … in retrospect, might go against the eating healthy concept. Whatever. It’s about finding the right treats for you!
2. Cleaning up
I get it if you’re checking out by now. You’re looking for luxury and comfort, and I’m telling you to eat healthy and clean house? Hear me out, though. There is something so satisfying when looking around and seeing a clean house. Is that Christmas tree still lurking at you from the corner? You are going to feel so much better when it’s down: one thing off your checklist, and there’s that lovely light feeling when you realize how much space you had in your home all along. My January aesthetic is simple and clean, which is ultimately very luxurious. Also, it’s good luck to clean your house before the lunar new year, which is coming up on February 1 this year. Why not do everything in your power to catch a little extra luck?
This is particularly necessary when it’s cold out. Did I mention it’s -30? Because it’s MINUS THIRTY. My walls have formed ice on the inside, my garage door doesn’t work and every time I turn on my car, it’s with bated breath and a prayer to all that is good in the world.
Enter: blankets and lounge suits. Preferably layered on top of each other. Right now I am basically a snowman in an oversized cream lounge suit and a woven rug over my knees (due to the proximity of the frozen wall.) This style is super in right now, so embrace it for all it’s worth. Sweatsuits, yoga pants, giant sweaters, this is the new workwear, the height of fashion! Nothing beats the comfort of something unbelievably soft caressing your skin. You know things will turn around in a few years, and we’ll all be wearing form-fitting corsets and low cut jeans again, so sink into this as long as it lasts.
4. Read a good book
You know I was going to suggest books, right? For me, curling up with a good book and potentially a cup of cocoa is absolutely the most indulgent, amazing thing in the world. I know I’m not alone. Recently, I wrote a blog all about books for comfort, so check that out for recommendations.
For a little twist here, let’s talk about reading to expand our minds and our souls. I am a sucker for diving into the latest romance or YA fantasy – and that’s amazing. If you like that kind of book, that’s definitely what you should do. This year is about finding our pleasure, right?
But I would like to see if I can’t bring something more socially aware, more spiritual or more enlightening while I’m indulging. When I read books that challenge me, I come away altered, often thinking deeper thoughts and connecting more with those around me. I’ve been challenged to complete the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Anyone with me? Let me know in the comments. Besides, food for the soul is comforting, too.
Candles are the epitome of Hygge, according to Wiking, and nothing creates instant comfort and atmosphere than lighting a candle. I love candles so much – the flickering light, the scent, the romance of it all. You’re never going to take my candles away from me.
Except … there can be consequences to burning tons of candles all the time. Burning any material can create off-gassing and smoke in your air. I get it. Can’t I have anything nice? But, while there have been studies on the negative health effects of burning paraffin or scented candles, nothing has really proved conclusively that it damages health, so don’t throw them out. There are also alternatives in burning beeswax or soy candles, which emit less VOCs. I love the subtle honey smell of beeswax candles all on their own! Other suggestions to improve air quality while also improving your mood includes lighting up in a well-ventilated area.
6. Green Power
Turn your home into a greenhouse. The more plants, the better. Living things create a peaceful joy-inducing atmosphere. Another benefit? Plants scrub your air clean, so you can light all the candles you want and have a power joyful comfort spot. That sounds awesome.
Another tip if you’re feeling blue, especially in the depths of an arctic-locked winter, is to visit an actual indoor greenhouse. Plants have been proven to enhance your mood and stave off depression. It’s real – just enter into a space that is scented with flowers, the air is warm and soft on the skin, and it’s an instant pick me up. Where I am, Calgary, you can visit the Devonian Gardens at the Core. In Edmonton, nothing beats Muttarts Conservatory. And if there’s nothing like that close to you, go to your local hardware and garden centre. There is often a greenhouse space for indoor plants. You don’t have to buy, you can just soak in the sights, smells and feel of living growing things. But if you do find the perfect plant to start your own greenhouse, more power to you.
Yoga is my go-to when I need to stretch my body and spirit. It’s one of those things I often put off, but then once I do it, it’s like why on earth am I not doing this all the time? In the freezing winter, it’s a great way to heat up the body from the inside, un-sticking all those joints and muscles that want to remain permanently locked in the fetal position.
My endless motivation to get to the mat in my home practice has been Yoga With Adriene, whom I have followed for years now. Every January she releases a full 30 days of new at-home yoga videos, perfect for all levels (for free on YouTube). I highly recommend this as a way to dive into daily practice. Yoga is a known mood enhancer and is easy to set up anywhere, while being amazing for your body and improving mindfulness. It’s a win-win-win-win.
As we head into this new, very uncertain year, I just want to remind you of something: you are awesome. I’m not just saying that. Did you wake up, set your feet on the ground and make your way into the day? Are you doing the best you can to keep yourself sane and healthy, often two opposing concepts in this crazy world? You are fucking awesome! We’re in the middle of a plague. Nobody has ever had to deal with what we are dealing with right now. This is new territory, it’s scary and we’re all doing our best to figure this out. That’s going to look different for everyone. Here’s my New Years Resolution:
It’s to remember this. It’s a promise I made myself a long time ago. Success looks different to everyone. It feels different. Don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else. This life thing is between you and you, and you got this.
For me, I will find success while also finding kindness for others. I will not step on others to get to where I need to be, and I promise to be inclusive. Any success I enjoy needs to be shared. That is the way I will measure my success. How will you?
Tell me what resolution is keeping you going this year. And if you’re in need of an extra pick-me-up, check out this super optimistic article in Medium: 99 Good News Stories 2021. Things might not be as dire as we think!
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