There comes a point in most people’s lives when work is done, finished or put aside, the house is in a good enough state and the next big thing on the horizon is bed. For many, the easiest option is to turn on the TV, sit on the couch and stare into the void until exhaustion (or another person) calls you upstairs.
It might be easy, but it’s not the best option. As long ago as 2008, studies showed that people who mainly watch TV as their evening entertainment are unhappier than those who read or spend time doing something they liked. A large part of hygge is being happy with life, so letting all the happiness you’ve built up during the day escape with a badly-chosen evening would not be very sensible, would it?
For this post I am specifically talking to those people who no longer have children (under say, 10 years old) to consider. I’ve written a special post about them to appear next week. This is about the person who maybe lives alone or with a few adult people, who has full days and needs to build a better evening or risk letting every one escape in a miasma of Love Island and Get Me Out of Here. Like always, I’m not saying that if you follow all the advice in here you will be hyggely 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That is neither possible nor desirable. But you will stand a better chance of feeling hyggely, and you’ll be happier whatever.
So, how do we design a better evening? Well, start with the things you like and work out from there. Are you a crafter? A Dungeons and Dragons fan? A musician, quizzer or reader? Do you like sport, keep fit or dance? Are you a fiddler or a sitter…. your perfect hygge evening will need to be built around you and your friends, so that the chances of feeling happy, safe, surrounded and loved are increased.
Here are my top tips for a hyggely evening at home, or on the run.
- Get the chores done first… but keep them simple. Unless you like housework, and want to count it as a hobby, then housework probably isn’t what you want to spend your evenings on. Instead, try spending just 30 minutes on getting the house straight before settling down to enjoy an evening. If the dishes are washed and away, the room looking clear of any toys, shoes or papers and the main toilets looking clean after a quick wipe and spray, it’s easier to relax knowing the place is well-looked after. We share the work, so washing up is His job while getting a load of washing on is mine. Plumping cushions is my job as well, since He would just throw them behind the couch and leave them there forever.
- Join a society that interests you. There are groups for pretty much any interest you care to mention available, mostly for free or very little cost. You can either join a specialist group (like an art group or a sports team, for example) or join a more general group or society, such as the Women’s Institute or Rotary Club, which may have several different groups affiliated to it. Regular attendance will give you a wider pool of acquaintances and may lead to new friendships being forged.
- Start the society you want to join. I have done this a couple of times, when a bookclub or craft group wasn’t available to me on a day that suited. The bookclub I belong to now started as a church group, and has slowly peeled away to be independent. We meet once a month in members’ houses, and often end up talking about the book we were supposed to have read. After 10 years the members are well-settled and know each other really well. We occasionally get new members, and welcome them as well, but the steady and regular membership means we know each other well, and drop into familiar friendship routines as soon as we meet up.
- Use the seasons to your advantage. In summertime, drop everything for a glorious couple of months. Use your free evenings when the sun stays out until 10pm to visit the coast, to walk in parks and fields as long as it stays light and to find small villages with pubs where a glass of cider can last a long time. I love to be ‘untimetabled’ during the summer, and to do something different. In the Winter, I find myself seeking warmth, hygge, crafts around the fire. The groups still go on, but I may leave early to get home and lock up ready to snuggle under a throw and catch the next episode of a carefully chosen TV show.
- Curate your TV experience. I’m careful which shows I get into. I’m also not afraid to stop watching a series that has lost my interest. We like to choose box sets that will capture the interest of as many members of the family as possible, and then settle down to watch them, one or two episodes a night. Recent favourites have included Suits, Poldark, Outlander and we are all hanging on waiting for the last season of Game of Thrones. I also like to watch documentaries on subjects that interest me: often historical, sometimes engineering. Keep your TV sessions short and sweet; binge watching, like anything bingey, isn’t good for you. And absolutely ban the TV, computer or anything blue-screen based at least 40 minutes before you plan on going to sleep. Read a book, listen to the radio or an audio book, or take that bath. Your brain needs to switch off before you do.
- Build a support system. Spend time with people who make you feel good, and make the effort to either invite them over or get invited. The real power behind hygge is spending time with the people who benefit you most psychologically: it’s the comfort, security and strength you feel when you know the people you are with love you unconditionally that boosts your happiness and mental strength in hygge.
- Live alone? Consider a pet. The positive emotions associated with stroking a dog or cat are immense. Even a guinea pig can be a useful source of oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins meaning a half-hour cuddling and stroking a pet can be a valuable calming tool.
- Plan regular spa sessions. Either alone, or with friends, plan evenings when you can just relax and enjoy being pampered. I wrote a whole post on having a hygge spa session, so I won’t repeat myself absolutely. Just to say a session as small as soaking your hands in a cider vinegar soak, giving yourself a hand-massage, and applying nail varnish will leave you relaxed and happy even if there is no one there to share it with. You’re not a manicure kind of person? Run a bath, light candles, drink elderflower presse (or wine, or beer) and relax.
There we are, a few ideas to keep your evening ready for hygge. The more open your life is to slowing down, appreciating the small things and leaving blank space for happiness and hygge, the more likely you are to feel happier. Pursuing happiness, chasing joy, doesn’t work, but letting it seep through your life quietly will.
Hygge and happiness go so well together. If you’d like to read about the small things that have helped me to be happier, my new book is available from Amazon. Happier is all about how to use the small details in life to make you happier. You can get it at Amazon.
I also think the principles of enjoying life and making the most of small details is an important part of How to Hygge Your Summer , my second book which contains my advice on having a hyggely time at home and outside, and which is also available in ebook and paperback version. You can find details about all my books, and how to connect with me on social media on the Start Here page of my blog.