My Hygge and Tea Rituals
Over the last four years as I have experienced ups and downs in my health and energy levels, one of the most important ideas I cling to is hygge. Hygge has been making the rounds on the buzz-word circuit for sometime now and has been used in many, mostly commercial, contexts.
The definition I refer to most often comes from The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking. Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, who has written several books and produces annual scholarly and statistical work on what factors make humans happy. Wiking defines hygge as:
“an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with
the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are
shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be
having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life – or just be
comfortable in each other’s silent company – or simply just be by yourself enjoying a
cup of tea.”
For me, that means creating ease and reducing stress in even the smallest of ways: soft clothes, foods that are easy to digest and good for my body, low lighting, nowhere to go, nothing that needs doing, and, of course, tea.I deal with stress-induced fatigue, so the easier I can make things for myself, the more energy I will have for my family, work and other pursuits.
Most mornings begin gradually and my husband and I enjoy our first cups of tea before leaving our bedroom. This gives us a chance to talk through the day ahead of us in a non-hurried way and with gratitude, rather than dread, for what we and our children will get to do. Our kids move around the house as they make their breakfasts and prepare for school and one of us eventually volunteers to drop them off while the other tidies the kitchen. We know that our homelife routines have benefitted from both of our employers’ pandemic work from home policies and that we are lucky to be in the position that we are. Two years ago our mornings were hectic and harried instead of what they are now: soft and measured. I am gaining confidence that we will be able to preserve our hygge atmosphere if and when the working world returns to normal.
After my first few meetings of the morning, I typically take a short break for some green tea - either matcha or whole leaf tea. This ritual pulls me out of my head for a few minutes - allowing my brain to process the information I have received and giving my body a chance to relax after hunching and squinting in front of my screen with my earbuds pressed into place. The preparations move me around my kitchen, opening cabinets, catching glimpses of favorite mugs and utensils. The gurgle of the kettle, the light clatter of a spoon, the opening and closing of drawers all lull me into subconscious thought. By the time the steam touches my face and I take my first sip I am ready to join my colleagues again in our shared work. My mind is clearer, any heightened emotions have been muted and thoughts have been reframed. I can bring the feeling of “home” into the rest of my day - safe, soft, comfortable.
Even though I believe what countless experts have told me, I still eat lunch at my desk. It’s a cheerful time when I can respond to the low-hanging fruit in my in-box and pull together what I need for the afternoon’s productivity. When I take a break it is usually around 3:00 for a session with an oolong or pu’er. I bring my tea tray to the dining room table and infuse the leaves as I read, journal, or listen to music. Oftentimes I will have a one-on-one meeting or catch up with a colleague during this time and it is almost as if we are enjoying our tea together.
After dinner, once all the homework has been done and the dinner dishes are put away, all four of us crave an herbal infusion. A favorite right now is Yogi Bedtime Tea and we will often place stroopwafels over the mugs while it is brewing and enjoy the warm, sticky goodness with our hot drinks.
In our house, hygge is gratitude and awareness of the pleasure that comes from basic needs being met and then some. It is never lost on me how lucky we are to have shelter, warmth, full bellies, and many other comforts - not the least of all is a cup of tea.