“Tranquil (adjective) –
Winter is a time that I still struggle with from time to time, and I find I have to put in extra effort to ensure that I am creating the most optimal experiences for my well being. I know I’m not alone; I encounter many people who find a succession of colder, darker, wetter days an encumbrance on their daily lives and plans. However I think that winter presents us with a hidden gift if we’re willing to work hard enough to catch even moments of it. I think that the longer nights and bleaker landscapes allow us opportunities to try harder and occasionally stumble into a sense of tranquillity, and for me, as it is for many others, tranquillity is one of the things that I aim to seek the most for in life.
The Danes have a word for which there is no direct translation. “Hygge” pronounced (hue-gah) essentially means making yourself extra comfortable. I see it as sipping a hot chocolate by a log fire, whilst wearing freshly laundered incredibly cozy pyjamas. With a country that gets even less daylight than we do I think it’s safe to say that we have a lot to learn from the Danes for how to thrive in the cold and dark. Anyone can seek Hygge however they please, some would do it with family and friends, others would make sure that they are by themselves and have absolute peace and quiet. It seems to me that the most important thing is that it takes dedicated preparation and time to ensure that you create the environment that is just right for you. Us Brits love the idea of relaxing in comfort but often stumble at the first hurdle. Hygge is in direct opposition to the common British desire to ‘look busy at all times’ if we’re not seen by others to be working hard then it is common to blame ourselves for all of our shortcomings. In other words what the Danes call Hygge the British might call “Lazy”.
Some of our universal needs are: rest, recreation, connection and self compassion. Give yourself permission to stop for a while and set aside some dedicated Hygge time, it might be the solution that meets all of these needs.
Seek out discomfort
Oh such contradictory advice!
Hygge alone, as wonderful as it is, would not be enough to keep us stimulated. We need challenge and growth and we need healthy and audacious goals and targets that get us outside of our front door and ready to tackle anything in our stride.
In Winter it is not that the world becomes harder, it is that we have allowed ourselves to become softer. Don’t wait until the world is soft enough to handle, make yourself tough enough to take on the world. Take time to strengthen your mindset so that you have self compassion and self control, condition your body so that it becomes more functional each day and acquire new skills and resources so that you can thrive in harsher conditions. Introduce little habits and routines that healthily push you outside of your boundaries. I don’t know if a specific word exists for this, but if there was one, perhaps it is ‘capable.’ When I dream about being perfectly capable I like to imagine myself in a cold woodland, safe in the knowledge that I can make a good fire, build a good shelter, cook some good grub and sleep through the night eagerly awaiting a new adventure in the new morning. It would be too much to strive for perfection, and we will make mistakes along the way, however we can all look at a difficult challenge and work hard to make ourselves “capable enough” to have a go at it.
I don’t know how you imagine yourself being when you are being capable or what you will do to cultivate the skill of becoming more and more capable each day during the Winter. I do know that if you want to make the most of this concept and begin this journey, then after you have finished reading this article write down 3 habits or dreams that seek out discomfort that you can start today and tomorrow to help you to enjoy 365 days of every year. You have more strength and potential than you can can even consider, and what is more, the moment you broaden your horizons all the self-compassion and relaxation you give yourself permission for in your hygge-time is going to taste that extra bit sweeter.
Sit with yourself
Most people at some point during the winter will have at least one day where the thought of going outside, fills them with dread, and I still have these days too. If you’re the type who thrives on ambition, who always has a project, or a calendar or “To Do” list, perhaps today is the day to be still for a while. There is a part of you that is shouting for your attention and it is fighting to make itself heard. Give yourself some quiet time, write it into your “To Do” list with a check box if you have to and set a deadline for Today! Create an environment free from distractions and sit and listen with that part of you that is telling you to slow down, ask it what it wants and what it is trying to show you. It is looking out for you, and if you listen hard enough and for long enough I think it has a wonderful message to share with you. I guarantee that writing “15 minutes of quiet time” will be the most important thing you could put on your “To Do” List today.
Somewhere amongst all these contradictions there is a path to be trodden this winter. The magic formula is always that we have to work hard to make time, and then spend it in a purposeful way, how we do that is down to the individual. The challenge is there for anyone who wants to take it. Put on your trainers and step out the front door, seek out discomfort and create your own comfort. Sit quietly with yourself for long enough and listen out for what wants to be heard. Somewhere in all of this, I hope you choose a path and stumble into a moment of your own-made tranquillity.