Staying cosy this winter

Warm, wooly, oversize jumpers with sleeves that fall down over your hands. Scarves that are very much toward the ‘blanket’ end of the spectrum. The flickering light of a fire with its soundtrack of crackling logs. An open book and a hot cup of tea to wrap your hands around. These are the things that I love about this time of year. It’s a time for wrapping up warm, getting cosy and staying inside.

It may be party season for some, but as the cold weather and darkness draws in, I find that I do too. Once I’ve got home from work and turned the heating on, I find myself reluctant to venture back outside and I’m much more inclined to spend time alone. It’s easier to get into an introspective mindset when the dark makes us feel tired and the warmth calls us quickly into our homes at the end of the day. It feels good to shut the door and draw the curtains against the cold outside.

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Winter can be a natural time to rest and hibernate. It’s not just me. Hedgehogs, hamsters, bats… lots of animals disappear at this time of year. For them it’s a survival mechanism. And in the long run up to Christmas, it’s pretty tempting.

So shall I resign myself to becoming a hermit for the winter months? I have to say the idea is appealing. But although I am a firm believer in the importance of making space for time alone, I also think that we have a need to be with other people. Too much introspection and I know I can easily lose sight of what actually matters. Connecting with others immediately draws out my perspective. As an in-denial extrovert (I definitely get my energy from being around people, although I much prefer the idea of being alone), I often have to fight to get the balance right. And it’s a fight I find myself losing more often at this time of year.

But why? I guess that for some reason in my cosy ideal I always picture myself being alone, with some combination of blankets, tea, books and fire. But the more I read about the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ (the new craze), the more I wonder if I’ve got it wrong. The concept is about living well, feeling comfortable and secure, and a sense of togetherness. The Danes have very few hours of daylight during the winter, and yet are classed one of the happiest countries in the world. Maybe this has something to do with that?

Yes, it is about candles and coffee and feeling cosy – as I’m sure you will have heard about already this autumn. But it’s also about more than that. According to Louisa Thomsen Brits, hygge is underpinned by ‘belonging, trust, connection, community, mutuality, kinship, security, home, contentment, authenticity, presence and love’. What strikes me most about her list is that although some of these can be experienced alone, they are things that are most fully experienced with other people. And it’s that experience of human connection that contributes to our sense of wellbeing. It makes us feel rooted – going deeper than the physical space we take up in the world to the emotional space, creating a feeling of belonging and inclusiveness.

So whilst I will definitely spend some nights in this winter with a good book and a blanket, I think I’ll try balancing that with taking time to invite friends over to join in the cosiness, for a cup of tea, a slow cooked stew or a glass of mulled wine and some candles. What better way of banishing the winter blues?

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