Whether it's record-breaking temperatures, frozen sidewalks or a lingering bout with a cold virus, winter can make you want to curl up and hibernate. But there's only so much inside time you can take before you go stir-crazy.
It's time to turn to Denmark for inspiration. Residents of the Nordic country endure dreary, cold winters with the help of "hygge," a cultural concept we love to write about. It's difficult to define, but it's best described as a warm feeling and lifestyle that center around coziness and companionship.
Other countries also have similar traditions of warmth and togetherness that help thaw winter's iciness. The idea is the same for all of them: Find cozy comfort so you forget about the long stretches of loneliness, dark and cold.
When you're stuck inside because of a particularly bad storm — like the polar vortex that's pummeling the U.S. — here's how to use these cultural habits to ward off cabin fever.
Get lost in a book. "You can hygge by curling up on the sofa with a good book," Michele McNabb, librarian for the Museum of Danish America, told MNN's Russell McLendon. It helps to have a hot drink, a warm blanket and a book you can get lost in for hours.
Let there be light. If you don't have to worry about little kids and rambunctious pets, turn down the overheads and light a bunch of candles instead. Flickering candles set an intimate mood that can help you forget the troubles of the outside world. If you don't want to worry about open flames, stock up with electric candles that offer a similar, safer atmosphere. The kids will love them.
Warm up. It's hard to feel cozy if you've got a chill, so get comfy from head to toe. Soft, warm textures are a part of hygge, so consider slipping into bulky wool socks, leggings or sweats, a soft sweater, then slip under a nubby blanket. Did someone say it's time for a nap?
Be crafty. Whether you like to knit or crochet, paint or draw, everything about being crafty is hygge. Crafting can be slow and methodical, and can help you focus and become calm. "Crafts in general are hygge, especially if you do them with a friend," Meik Wiking, chief executive officer of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, tells Health. "It's a chance to slow down and make something handmade."
Start cooking. You know you don't want to brave the roads, so get some soup or stew simmering on the stove. The warmth and soothing aromas will do wonders for your mood, and this tasty comfort food will bring the family together at dinnertime.
Soak in the tub. Maybe your usual routine involves a jolting, quick shower every morning. Slow things down with a relaxed, long bath instead. "Not many people think about the bathroom when they’re making their home cozier, but think about making a more relaxing environment for the next time you take a soothing bath," Kayleigh Tanner, owner of the U.K.-based blog Hello Hygge, tells Mental Floss. She suggests candles, essentials oils and big fluffy towels to make for a comforting, warm soak.
Go old-school. As long as the Wi-Fi and cell service aren't down, kids (and grown-ups) are likely to be glued to their devices. But convince everyone to tuck away technology for some board games or cards and enjoy some quality togetherness time.
Binge watch. You don't have to totally disconnect to enjoy hygge coziness. It's OK to snuggle up under a blanket and binge-watch whatever lets you forget the dreariness outside. Of course, it's much more fun to do it with friends and family, if you can find something everyone agrees on. It'll be even more fun if there are lots of warm, tasty snacks and steaming beverages on hand.
Dust off your journal. When's the last time you jotted down your thoughts? Maybe you do it often or perhaps you've never started. It can be hard to find the time to put words to paper when you're running all the time. But now that you're tucked inside, take a few moments to write a journal entry or two. It can be anything from your deepest thoughts to random observations, ideas and perspectives.
Clear your mind. Meditation has so many benefits that it makes a lot of sense for when you're stuck indoors. Find a quiet spot, focus your breathing and clear your mind. You might take just a few minutes or spend quite a while as you try to find your inner zen. There are all sorts of types of meditation, so find the one that works for you.