It's been a couple of years now since my wife and I have embarked on our journey into the hygge lifestyle and I must say, it has been such a rewarding experience! Today we want to share with you why we think hygge is important and how it has impacted our relationships. For those of you new to the blog you can read about what is hygge here. Now without further adieu, let's get into it.
Focusing on the "Quality" in "Quality Time"
One of the biggest impacts hygge has had in my life is that it has pushed me to be more present in the moment; a skill that we need now more than ever in the digital age. I've been with my wife, Lindsay, for 10 years (wow, time flies) and she can attest that this has been a real struggle for me. Do you try to multitask any chance you get? Do you spend half your time with friends and family glued to your phone? I know I have definitely been guilty of both of these habits over the years. Now that I've been to the other side though, I can safely say the grass is much greener.
Lindsay is a cancer researcher by day and I am a professional saxophonist by night; our schedules are the complete opposite. As you can imagine the few hours we do have together need to be cherished, but for years I had a terrible habit of doing work on my computer or phone while we spent time together. This was an obvious point of contention between us and really degraded the quality of our time together. I would forget what was being discussed or miss what happened in our favourite Netflix show. The reality is, multitasking doesn't make you more efficient, it just makes you worse at both tasks (If the science behind this interests you, you can read more about it in Adler’s & Fich’s study, here). Once I (mostly) stopped dividing my attention, I noticed that I was more aware of things she likes, our conversations became more enthralling and our time together was far more fun. If there are tasks you need to accomplish, set the time aside for them and try to give your relationships the time and attention they so readily deserve.
Hygge Lighting or Bust
I know we spend a considerable amount of time on the blog talking about lighting, but I can't stress enough how important lighting can be. Lighting greatly affects our mood, actions and can make or break an atmosphere. When the lights are turned on in a nightclub, what effect does this have on the party? It kills. I see this happen every week (I'm not a party animal, just a party saxophonist). Everyone becomes self-conscious and stops dancing. When you want to take a special someone on a dinner date, do you find yourself gravitating to the restaurants with white, bright sterile lighting? Almost never. If you're like me, you subconsciously gravitate towards the establishment with low, warm lighting because it sets an air of romance and intimacy. Why do we watch scary movies with the lights off? Because it instantly becomes scarier and you want to be completely immersed in the experience.
Hamilton, our home town, has recently entered into a bit of a culinary renaissance. There is no shortage of trendy dining experiences for visitors to explore. Despite the plethora of options, my wife and I always take first time visitors of the Hammer (that's Hamilton for those in the know) to one of two spots; Mezcal or Fairweather. One of the main reasons for this is the atmosphere. Mezcal is a Mexican dining experience that transports you to another world. The lighting is always low, warm and welcoming; the perfect combination for meaningful interactions. Low lighting instantly makes us engage others in our immediate vicinity because it blocks out distractions and forces us to be present. Everytime we bring guests to Mezcal, it's a hit and the hygge lighting is a large part of it.
The Hygge Watering Hole
They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. While this may be true, there are certainly things you can do to increase the odds. If you are really struggling to create that hygge experience with friends, one trick you can use is picking a smaller communal space for your gathering. A home is always a good option, but if everyone insists on going out, try picking a space that really limits the number of patrons and has communal bench style seating. Bench seating seems to prompt for fun filled interactions with strangers,and lends itself to memorable experiences that keep everyone present in the moment.
When Lindsay and I visited Frankfurt for the Ambiente Conference, we made dinner arrangements with an acquaintance of hers who lived in the area. She took us to what was arguably the number one schnitzel joint in the Rhein region, Wagner's. In classic German style, the establishment was set up like a beer hall with long bench style seating, which forced us to get cozy with strangers. Approximately five minutes into our visit two middle aged German men sat next to us and before we knew it we were deep in conversation about what seven herbs make up the Frankfurt seven herb sauce. The conversion caught the attention of the chef who, without a word, sauntered over slapped a piece of paper on the table and slowly began scribbling the ingredients of the sauce, handed us the recipe, and then walked away. We had a lot of good laughs and lots of apfelwein (apparently you must drink at least three; it's tradition), with complete strangers. It wasn't what we had planned for the evening, but it deeply enriched the experience. You can bet the next time we visit Bavaria we are going right back to Wagner's for another fantastic, and intimate, experience!
I'll be the first to admit that being present and engaging is hard and I often fall short of this pursuit. As I write this I'm thirty-five-thousand feet in the air with my brother in-law travelling from Halifax and I'm working while attempting to engage him in conversation (sometimes deadlines bring out the worst in us). Yes, it's challenging, but it is worth the effort because hygge is important to meaningful interactions and a fulfilling life. Our lives have changed for the better and we hope these practices do the same for you and your friends!
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