Hygge on the inside

A metaphor for self-compassion

Like Comment

As a leadership coach and practitioner of emotional intelligence, self-compassion has been a major focus for me over the past three years. It started as an off-shoot from resilience projects and it has now become a driver in my life and work. I've realised so many people don’t really know what self-compassion is or how tough self-compassion can be to put into practice. 

Hygge is a Danish word for a feeling or moment of cosiness. It's usually depicted with photos of candles, wood fires, woolly socks, twinkly lights, chunky knit blankets, hot chocolate and freshly baked cinnamon swirls. These magazine images evoke cosiness, they invite you in from the cold and entice you to relax and be mindful, to appreciate some space and time for you or togetherness with loved ones. To just be and enjoy what matters.
Now wouldn't it be great if you could cultivate that on the inside? To have a place you could go and be in your own company that was hygge inside yourself. For me, this metaphor offers up a different take on self-compassion, possibly an easier way of understanding what it really is and, more importantly, an easier way to practise it.

In The Little Book of Hygge, author Meik Wiking describes hygge as being consciously cosy.  Consciously cosy. I like that. Isn't that an excellent term to bring more depth to self-compassion?

I've come to believe self-compassion is pivotal to individual effectiveness and well-being. I also believe it’s imperative for radical change in society. In this context, please stop for a moment and think what consciously cosy means for you…

What would it take for you to feel consciously cosy in your head, heart and body?
How might you live your life from the inside out if you were consciously cosy?

Remember what makes hygge so wonderful is coming in from the cold. It doesn't mean you don't venture out there. It means despite the elements outside, there's warmth and light and security inside you.  It means despite the extremes at work and the ups and downs of living that leave you stressed and tense, you have a cosy place to come home to, on the inside, where you can be yourself and feel a little bit better.
Here are some suggestions for being consciously cosy on the inside:

  • Make the space around you cosier as a visual reminder that there is always warmth and cosiness within your reach.
  • Collect some photos that capture the essence of hygge for you. Create a collage from these or take a photo of the images to keep in your diary or on your phone. Make it easy to find so that you can go there, as opposed to keeping it permanently on display. (Sometimes precious items that are permanently on display become like wallpaper and you stop appreciating them.)
  • Make a series of cards that represent what being consciously cosy means for you.
  • Create a space in yourself, that you can return to, that's always there for you. Use your photo or page to have some mindful moments there.
  • Find a pause in your day to nurture yourself by being consciously cosy. It could be in your office, in your parked car, on the train / bus or a place at home.
  • Find your own prompts and process to evoke those calm, warm, cosy feelings that give you access to deep gladness on the inside. For example, close your eyes and in your mind's eye see and sense:

- flames blazing and logs glowing
- a warm fleecy blanket hugging you
- your feet and toes snuggly in some hand knitted socks where the pattern and colours make you smile
- a warm drink
- the scents and sounds of nature
- no wifi, no interruptions, just whatever cosiness means for you

This isn't a winter retreat, you can visit here for a few minutes any time of day to recharge and regain a peaceful perspective.
You might notice your restless thoughts and note down their reminders, then listen instead to whatever you would like to hear - the sounds of nature, reassurances, kind words.
You might notice the different perspective here, the space for ideas and realisations that eluded you in the noise out there. Here you capture them and jot them down to revisit later.
You might become deeply glad of this space because it feels right. With practice, you'll get a good grasp on what self-compassion means beyond 'being kind to yourself'.
There is no competition here, no comparisons, no demands - just now, just you, reaching out to yourself, taking care of yourself the way you would a child coming in from the cold. Providing warmth, rest, comfort and reassurance that it will be OK, just being there until that child feels a little bit better, ready to take on the world again.

You may be good at this outwardly with others, now you can turn that kindness inwards. And therein lies the challenge. Instead of pushing harder until you're exhausted, instead of giving your time to others when you're in deficit with it yourself, instead of checking all your electronic devices to feel on top of everything, telling yourself why you're rubbish or not productive enough, give yourself a break. Find hygge on the inside and see how much more productive you become. See how you find a new perspective on what matters and how much better you feel.

Maureen Bowes

Leadership & Personal Development Coach, People Intelligence

Psychologies Ambassador creating and pioneering self compassion for radical change. ILM Level 7 Executive Coach and Leadership Mentor. Wife, mum, people watcher, café dweller, film lover


Go to the profile of Maureen Bowes
almost 4 years ago