It’s such a strange time. There’s no getting around it, never before have we been so helpless in controlling our fate - aside from one thing: staying at home. By social distancing, we reduce the risk for everyone involved: our loved ones, the vulnerable and our key workers.
The concept of social-distancing is difficult. As inherently social creatures, it goes against our nature to cut ourselves off from the world completely (apart from you proud introverts - share your secrets please!) Those who undergo long periods of isolation usually have a professional, social or philosophical reason for it: astronauts, prisoners, wilderness-wanderers, but now the greater purpose has been thrust upon us. It was not a choice; this is what I believe we struggle with most.
Being told not to do something, is of course, inevitably a trigger for wanting to do it more. Hairstyles, piercings and the relationships of your teenage years are hard evidence for this. But there are ways (that I am still trying to teach myself) of continually reminding your brain of the greater purpose, distracting from the fear and living in the present, while there is no certain future.
The Danish concept of ‘Hygge’ may ring bells as one of the big trends a few years ago. However, I think it can be applied with real value to the current situation.
Hygge is defined as ‘a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).’
Now, I hear you when you say, ‘Um, love the thought but we’re in the middle of a heat wave, and that’s all about jumpers right?’ Yes, hygge does conjure images of log fires, fur, candles, wool blankets and high neck jumpers. But really it’s about a feeling - of cosiness and contentment. We associate it with winter because that’s when we tend to need it most, due to Vitamin D deficiencies and longer colder nights.
Right now, while we struggle to feel comfortable and ‘at home’ within our own homes, continuous anxious thought cycles and constant information overloads, working to create hygge can make a huge difference.
First things first - only allow yourself to focus on the present. In order to make yourself feel comfortable, we have to avoid uncomfortable unknowns. This currently includes anything in the future, as we take things one day at a time in the current environment. So by forcing ourselves to only think about what’s happening now, and especially what we’re enjoying, we can express our gratitude for the small things, and ease ourselves into feeling more comfortable and cosy.
My best friend J has an alternative theory though, proving how unique our perspectives are and why our solutions must be too. She took some time yesterday to make a mood board / scrapbook page / vision wall (whatever you’re used to calling it) with all of the things she’s looking forward to doing again in the future. Photos of beaches, food, friends, travelling, flats and London, where she hopes to move when this passes.
Secondly, focusing on our wellbeing is hugely important right now: eating well, moving around and doing the best we can in difficult circumstances. We live in the city centre, and with people still travelling along our street contanstantly, we haven’t felt safe to leave the house to exercise. Instead, we’ve found a great sassy hip-hop workout, I’ve dug out my old yoga mat, and every day is a water challenge - to finish our 2 pints throughout the day. We bake, dance, and watch Gilmore Girls regularly to escape. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some sad times, but by focusing on these things, as well as writing, I’m feeling better and finally starting to adjust. Achievable goals are a must too. As T works tirelessly to finish his master’s, we try to make sure he has regular breaks and distractions, so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Manageable bite-size chunks are key.
Finally, in order to achieve real hygge, we have to include some ‘conviviality’. This friendliness comes from keeping in regular contact with our friends. So far we’ve had 4 pub quizzes, countless mini games, funny chats and catch-ups with people we haven’t seen in ages. This pause is a good time to recoup, check in, and nurture relationships - after all, you’ve never had more time to! I feel energized and more myself after coming off the phone with my girls, or sleepily content after a lengthy pub quiz on a Saturday evening.
And hell, light some candles, make some cookies and throw on a blanket or too. Hygge is a hug - and boy do we need it right now.