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How Hygge Helps Me Manage My Chronic Illness

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What is hygge? Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a Danish concept that has no direct translation into English. Canadians may come close with the term “hominess” – my favorite is “coziness of the soul.” Hygge is all about a cozy and comforting atmosphere and that means everything to someone in chronic pain. Not forgetting that Denmark is often ranked the happiest nation, perhaps hygge has something to do with that.

Here’s a how I apply hygge to my everyday life and how it helps with my chronic pain:

Light – Candles, lamps and fairy lights are encouraged. I find this helps with migraines and fatigue, especially after spending the day in the fluorescent lighting of the office or even hospitals.

Togetherness – It can be easy to let go of socializing when chronically ill but close friendships (the kind that will come to me when I’m not well) are what keep me going. Oxytocin reduces stress, fear and pain so those relationships are very important to me. It’s also worth noting that toxic relationships will do the exact opposite.

Food – It seems every other day I am given diet advice that has never been proven and will not cure my illness. It can be very frustrating figuring out what foods are “safe” for my digestive tract, but food is also meant to be enjoyed for the sake of mental well-being. I’m not saying “eat what makes you sick” but find something you can enjoy in moderation. I will not feel guilty for a square of dark chocolate if that’s what makes me happy.

Hot drinks – I once read that hot drinks are the thing most associated with hygge. They’re very comforting, can be enjoyed for flavor and various herbal teas can be beneficial for certain symptoms. It’s also something I can enjoy even on days when I’m too sick to eat.

Clothing – Hygge/Danish style is all about being casual, comfy and warm. Think comfy PJs, oversized jumpers, scarves and layers. This is a very easy way to look stylish without aggravating my pain (and hides my endometriosis bloating).

Hair – Casual hair is encouraged. I like to leave mine loose (to prevent migraines) or in a messy bun/braid (great when sickness strikes).

A nook/cozy space – I love a space to curl up with a blanket, book and tea but on a bad day this space can be my sofa with a hot water bottle and Netflix. It helps me surrender and embrace the flare-up until it passes.

Nature – According to psychologists, nature has been proven to be uplifting. If you can, bring a bit of nature inside your home.

Books – The thing I love most about reading is that it’s a hobby that can be enjoyed on a good day, bad day and in hospital waiting rooms.

Blankets and Cushions – Some days I need bed rest but that messes with my mentality and body clock. On those days I take a blanket and my favorite cushions and rest up on the sofa. Some even find that heated and weighted blankets can help their chronic pain.

Presence – Hygge is about being present and that really helps me feel better about not being able to commit to plans.

When faced with chronic pain, I try to make everything else as comfortable as possible. Hygge helps me with this and helps me find a nice feeling to focus on during the bad days.

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Originally published: November 11, 2018
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