Mind & Body New Directions

My Word of the Year for 2018: Hygge

Don’t you just love the start of a new year? A clean slate, a new calendar on the wall–honestly, there are few things that make me feel more hopeful than January 1st. For our next trip around the sun, I’m going to focus on a word that makes the journey more enjoyable: Hygge.

If you’ve never heard that word before, trust me, you’re not alone. I’d been trying to choose my 2018 word of the year for weeks when I stumbled across it on the cover of this book. Hygee is a Danish word that means (loosely translated) “cozy contentment.” A little bit of research revealed that this word has its roots in Germanic, Norwegian and Old English words meaning hug, comfort, mood, and think. There’s some debate online as to whether the world is pronounced hoo-guh or hue-guh, so I’ll let you make your own decisions about that. (Better yet, if you know a native speaker, pop into the comments section and let us all know.)

If you’ve ever found yourself feeling filled with contentment on a cold winter’s day when you were settled in with a good book and a cup of tea, you’ve experienced hygge. As an introvert, hygee is my favorite feeling in the world. So this year, I’ve decided to dedicate myself to finding a moment of hygee in every day–and designing a life that allows for this opportunity.

I have some pretty clear ideas about how to make this happen.

Less of this

Distraction. Whether it’s a television in the background, music I’m not really listening to, or alerts from my cell phone, I’m cutting back. It takes just seconds to turn off the noise and blinking lights.

Worry. I’ve already started paring down the number of news feeds I follow. A reliable few will keep me well-informed without making me crazy.

Stress. This takes on many forms that it’s hard to know how to address them all. Right now, my plan is to stop and assess. Whenever I’m feeling stressed out, what’s causing it What can I do about it? If I can’t do anything right now, how can I let go of the stress I’m holding on to?

More of this

Priorities. My dad used to say “People generally find time to do the things that are really important to them.” I think about this whenever I hear myself complaining about not having time for one thing or another. Making hygee a priority needs to be a matter of conscious choice. Gradually, it will become a matter of habit.

Creative pursuits. Whether it’s coloring, drawing, working on a crochet project, or writing this blog, creative work occupies my mind in a way that nothing else does. It requires a level of focus that redirects my energy in positive directions.

Reading. I love to read, but reading for pleasure is something I do precious little of. (That’s due, at least in part, to the fact that I’m a professor of English. This means I do a lot of reading for teaching purposes.) Like creative work, though, reading for pleasure requires focus. It almost always makes me feel better.

Flexibility. I cause myself a lot of stress by holding myself to inflexible standards. Most of the time, though, there’s really no good reason why things can’t change. My plan for cultivating flexibility, like my plan for dealing with stress, is to stop and assess. If the only thing causing me to feel pressure is my own standards, I’m the one who gets to decide whether they can be adjusted.

What’s your word for 2018? How do you plan to keep it in focus?





  • Reply TheSeanaMethod January 2, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Mine is “listen.” I want to listen more when I am in conversation (not jump in…), and also to God and the wisdom of others. I love your word.. very appealing concept! Wishing you a very happy new year, Pam!

    • Reply Pam January 2, 2018 at 8:33 am

      That’s a great choice for a word of the year. I struggle to listen without formulating a response in my head, which of course gets in the way of really hearing what others are saying. Happy 2018 to you!

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