Hygge in the time of self-isolation

Buckle up, friends – we’re in for a strange few months. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has torn through the world, and health risks aside, perhaps one of the biggest challenges will be the (temporary) move towards self-isolation. Virtually all of the worst-affected countries are telling their people to stay indoors and minimise contact with other people to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

Now, for an introvert like me, this should be no big deal at all. I’m a pro at spending time away from people, and it’s something I build into my weekly plans. But even I am reeling at the prospect of potentially months spent indoors. When it’s not your choice, it suddenly makes ‘indoors’ seem oppressive and prison-like. And I’m thinking a lot about the elderly people, many of whom live alone, who may go months without a proper face-to-face conversation. It’s scary. There’s no denying that.

A plant and a lamp on a white bookcase

So, now we’ve all suddenly been given the gift nobody really wanted, what are we going to do with all this time at home? In terms of hygge, we’re obviously scrapping the café meetings and the cosy pub evenings, so how can we embrace hygge to make this frightening time just a little bit less scary?

Home cinema night

Real cinemas are out, for obvious reasons. But Netflix puts pretty much any genre of film at your fingertips, all from the comfort of your own sofa… and there’s the added bonus of no giant heads passing across the screen and no incessant chatting in the row behind.

Recreate your own cinema experience with popcorn (to be honest, I’m a big fan of cheap microwave popcorn… salted for me please!), a bag of sweets (Maltesers for me please) and a drink of something delicious, and then take full advantage of your home comforts with a big tangle of blankets. If you’re doing this with kids, you could also make little tickets for them to check before you go into the living room, and give them a torch to show everyone to their seats.

Or, if you’re fully self-isolating, browser extensions like Netflix Party allow you to chat with your friends in real time alongside whatever you’re watching together. It’s not quite the same as being together in the same room, but it’s the next best thing… 

Spring cleaning

Woman carrying three woolly blankets

I know what you’re thinking – a) in what way is this fun and b) what on earth does this have to do with hygge? But hear me out!

Last year, I read Hinch Yourself Happy by Sophie Hinchliffe, aka Mrs Hinch (and reviewed it here) and it really resonated with me. During these weird, uncertain times, it’s understandable that many of us are feeling like we don’t have any control over the situation. But while we can’t control what’s going on out in the ‘real world’, we DO have a say over what happens in our own homes. Mrs Hinch finds that cleaning helps her manage her anxiety, and it certainly can’t hurt to give that a whirl.

This might just mean freshening up a different room every day, running the vacuum cleaner around the house or even just cracking through that washing up. Right now, hygiene is key, so keeping your home spick and span can only be a good thing.

Raiding the cupboards

We’ve all heard about the panic buying situation in the supermarkets right now, so lots of us will be making do with whatever is in our kitchen cupboards. Jack Monroe’s Tin Can Cook is a great read if you’re not quite sure where to start with your mad assortment of tinned peaches, kidney beans and tomato soup, but also… why not get creative? Now is your chance to discover your new favourite meal, so delve into your stash and see what flavour combos you can come up with.

A woman's hands kneading dough on a floured worktop

Naturally, I’m also going to use this opportunity to do some baking. For extra hygge points, I recommend ScandiKitchen: Fika and Hygge by Bronte Aurell and Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen, or for simple, hearty comfort food, try Nigella Lawson’s At My Table. We’ll all have a bit of extra time on our hands, so now is your chance to master baking bread, perfecting your profiteroles or finessing your focaccia. 

Tap into your creative side

There’s a lot to be said for arts and crafts. Even if you haven’t picked up a paintbrush or a glue stick since school, you probably have plenty of craft materials in your house already. Old newspapers, magazines and leaflets can be used for collages, empty boxes and bottles can be transformed into rockets, cars and animals, and you could even use that out-of-date jar of beetroot slices or the turmeric with a use-by date of January 1999 to create your own natural tie-dye clothes

philipp-lublasser-O_Xf5uToN-Q-unsplash

Places like Hobbycraft also do a great range of craft kits to keep kids and adults alike entertained and mentally stimulated. You can learn to make everything from soap to candles to jewellery relatively inexpensively, and once you have the kit it’s pretty easy to source additional materials to continue your newfound hobby. And who knows – maybe you’ll discover you’re a talented whittler!

Keep on moving

We should ALL be practising social distancing at the moment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t see sunlight for the next three months. First and foremost, going outside will be good for our mental health, and it can help alleviate the cabin fever we’re all likely to experience at some point in the coming weeks and months. But we also need vitamin D, we need the mental stimulation and we need the exercise.

A man's legs in jeans walking in the countryside

We don’t all have the luxury of a garden or lots of space in our homes to exercise (I’m trying to build Yoga With Adriene YouTube videos into my daily routine), so going outside for a brisk walk may be your best bet. The usual rules apply – keep a sensible distance from others (aim for a nice open area) and wash your hands as soon as you get home. 

Look after others… 

If you feel well and you’re not in a high-risk group, think about dropping notes through the doors of vulnerable neighbours – especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions – outlining how you can help.

And at times like these, Skype, FaceTime and good old-fashioned phone calls are your friends! Be sure to check in with elderly friends and relatives and those who are living alone – if nothing else, just for a friendly chat. Lots of areas have launched their own Facebook groups designed to exchange support and request help locally, with others setting up WhatsApp groups for their neighbourhoods.

You could also place an online shop for someone else, or even send them some flowers to let them know you’re thinking of them (for Mother’s Day, Easter or even as a get well soon gift). As always, you can use my referral code to save £10 on letterbox flowers with Bloom & Wild, which will be dropped through the door with no contact or signatures required.  

… and look after yourself

It sounds obvious, but we’re all feeling a bit anxious and strange at the moment. Make sure you’re stocked up on medication (many pharmacies will deliver medication to your door – just ask the driver to ring the bell and leave it outside for you to collect), and make sure you’re reaching out to friends and family not just for their sake, but for yours too.

A bath tray with a candle, flowers, a hot drink and books

Seeing as we won’t be going out a whole lot for a while, most of us will be buying online. If you’re doing this, think about supporting your small local businesses. While they may not be able to open the store, many are still fulfilling online orders. Weirdly, as I was writing this paragraph, the Bird and Blend order I placed (a cold brew bottle and a couple of cold brew teas) about 27 hours ago just arrived – now that’s impressive! And if you want to support your local restaurants and bars without spending time in public, why not buy a gift card or a voucher to use when it’s safe to visit these venues again? That way, you’re supporting their income during this difficult time, and you’ll have something nice to look forward to when everything calms down again.

But now is also the time to pull out all of the self care classics. If you’re working from home, what’s to stop you popping on a face mask (no, not that kind) or hair mask while you type away? Why not use your lunch break (and do take your breaks!) to belt out a few tunes with YouTube karaoke? And this is a prime opportunity to work through that stack of books next to your bed (we all have one), or to treat yourself to an uplifting magazine subscription – if only to take you out of the real world and the endless cycle of news for a while… 

What will you be doing to keep yourself occupied during the self-isolation period? How will you embrace hygge within your home? Let me know in the comments, and I’m always happy to chat on Twitter or Instagram!

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