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What do the Danish Concept of “Hygge” and Chinese Medicine Have in Common?

Hygge, pronounced “hue-guh” has its roots in Denmark and is translated as “coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well being.” Winter is the peak season of Hygge in that part of the world, although you can make your life more “hygge” any season (hygge also gets used as an adjective) or anywhere.

How do we get through the long, extreme Chicagoland Winter with positivity? It's not easy, but we have to start with our attitude. It's too easy to “hate” Winter and spend 5-6 months of one's life feeling discontented or unwell. I'm not saying warm blankets, hot tea and fantasies of sandy beaches and turquoise water don't help, but attitude is critical to not just surviving but also thriving in Winter!

I firmly believe regular acupuncture helps our Hygge. It can lift the Seasonal Affective Disorder that is so prevalent in our western culture. It improves our blood circulation so we feel less “freezing,” which enables us to enjoy our lives more. If we aren't freezing and depressed we can actually go out into nature and enjoy the beautiful winter landscapes. Hygge does not mean staying holed up in one's domicile for months on end; we need outings in nature to maintain our balance over the winter months. This same polarity is reflected in Chinese Medicine's “Internal and External” Parameters (these are two of the eight, the others are Hot/Cold, Yin/Yang, Light/Dark). Our lives are a dance between the energies of the polarities and Wintertime is no exception.

Sitting by the fire quietly or enjoying intimate gatherings in Winter, the most Yin time of year, helps our Hygge. Fire energy is yang and warming in nature. Fires, lighting candles, and eating foods with warming properties will help us feel “cozier.” Your acupuncturist will use heating blankets, heating lamps, moxibustion (the burning of mugwort over acupuncture points), and recommend warming herbs and foods to help you nurture your yang energies—which will stoke your internal fire in the Ming men (Fire of the Gate of Life residing in the Kidneys). These treatments to tonify the yang energies will balance the cold, dark, sinking, internal, receptive, yin energies of Winter. This fire will eventually fuel our activities in the Spring when we “burst open” once again!

In Chinese Medicine Winter is more about storing and conserving than gathering and depleting. This means it's not the best time for prolonged detoxing (although you may need one after the holidays to get back on track—fair enough). It's a time to eat healthily and heartily, to gather together and share--rather than scatter and disperse. Enjoying fellowship by the fire, with a mug of something tasty, and eating homemade soups & roasts together gets us through these long cold dark days. And, let's not forget—coming for acupuncture! Acupuncture will definitely help your Hygge.

In warmth & light, Maureen McLaughlin, LAc

Tip: A kidney scarf keeps the kidneys warm & protected during Winter: