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We need connection desperately. Here's a Danish tradition that fosters it.

Something in our society feels upside down, just not right. It's almost like we've lost a part of who we are. Like we can't identify what it is, but we're all wondering how it happened, and we're trying to reverse the damage and we're just not sure how to do it or if it's possible at all.

Studies show that the square footage of American's homes is increasing while the number of close friends Americans have is steadily decreasing. Anxiety and depression seem to be on the rise. Violence shouts from the television. It's rare to see anyone without a cellphone in hand-- we are either looking at them or have them out next to us. We sleep with them on, usually right on our bedside tables. After all, they're alarms too, right? Even as I write this, my cell phone sits right by my computer, as if it's a pacemaker I cannot live without.

It's tense and overwhelming.

Most of us try not to focus on it, but when we do, it's scary. Even writing a paragraph about it feels overwhelming to me, as if to scream, "Where are the people I will weather these storms with? Who will sit with me, not text me, not send me an article they found on Facebook that I might relate to?" Those things are fine and caring and helpful, but really, who will sit with us, hug us, bring us coffee, hold our children, and remind us of all of the good in life when things get hard? Who will revel in the joy with us when things are great? Who will be there to connect with us consistently? And how have we lost this as a foundational practice in our society?

Our connections with each other seem to be at all all time low, and that is frightening for many reasons, but one of the most note-worthy from a mental health perspective is that we are inherently social creatures. We need connection and crave it deeply, yet we have allowed our lives to be commandeered without limitations by nearly everything that, when used to the extent that has become normal in our society, weakens those human connections. Cell phones. Computers. Facebook. Instagram. LinkedIn. SnapChat. Large homes. Television. Dinners (and most meals) on the run. You know, to name a few.

Today I want to arm you (and myself, I may add) with a way to foster those connections that is tried and true, and very needed for the health of our souls: hygge (pronounced hoo-guh).

Hygge is a Danish practice, and there is no direct translation of this concept into English, but we can think of it as coziness, warmth, relaxation, indulgence, and authentic connection. Hygge is anything that fosters that, and it is something that we create out of who we are. It is not something we do when things get difficult; it is something we cultivate in our lives through the best of times and through the worst. Hygge remains consistent.

In simple terms:

Think of soothing, gentle, enjoyable things.

Make them a part of your life.

With other people.

A brewed cup of coffee or tea. A fire. Blankets and pillows on the floor with a board game. Cashmere socks. Pajamas. Candles lit. A picnic outside. A hike up a mountain. Watching the sunrise with your spouse, children, or friends. Building a snowman. Lighting sparklers. Having hot chocolate together. Cuddling with your child, just cuddling. A rustic dinner with friends. Baking. Sharing a pastry in the morning. Having a scoop of ice cream, and reveling in it getting all over your child's face. Letting go of control. Enjoy each other. Just enjoying.

As I envision all of this, a part of my soul seems to leap and settle in a comfortable, warm, welcoming, hopeful, almost hygge-like place. Another part of myself tenses.

What would it be like to come home from a long day of work, pick my child up from daycare, and let cleaning up the house wait? Just to snuggle with him? In pajamas? To chase him around? To listen to his giggle, the sweetest sound in the world to me? Just to enjoy him? With my phone off? So no one can interrupt that time?

Pretty foreign.

Glorious.

Scary.

Glorious because it would be indulgent and I love that little guy more than life itself. Time to just enjoy him would be glorious. Time to discover and enjoy each other is a remarkable gift.

Scary, yes. It's scary because we're usually so bad at it. My need to feel productive is so big sometimes that it pushes me to put my son (and so many others) and our time together second to my productivity. It's scary to confront that. It's also scary to be authentic and vulnerable and silly, and connection with others demands this of us in such a beautiful (and, yes, scary) way.

Hygge. It’s a choice we can make to begin reclaiming ourselves and our connections. It’s like the mindfulness of each other and the sacred space between us. It’s creating a space that holds ourselves and our loved ones, fully, authentically, openly, without judgment, and with total acceptance and joy and comfort. It is a space that is safe and consistent and indulgent in the midst of the joys and the sorrows and the mundane and the sacred.

Think about it: If we and our children had that space as a part of us, literally as a part of who we are, fostered intentionally and consistently with each other, how much more connected, secure, and grounded would we be? Maybe it’s a part of why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.

It’s time for us to reclaim ourselves and each other. Connect. Hygge.

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