A couple of years ago, the Danish word hygge took the global home and lifestyle market by storm. I’d imagine this bemused the Danish – when an everyday concept suddenly hit glossy magazine covers from Elle Decoration UK to Schöner Wohnen in Germany. By golly we all went for it, didn’t we? Getting out the scented candles, covering our sofas in pastel-coloured lambskin rugs and embracing everything Scandi to create a space where we could get cosy and chill.

What exactly IS hygge?

Collins English Dictionary named hygge the runner-up (after Brexit) as word of the year in the UK in 2016.

Like “Weltschmerz” and “Schadenfreude” (thanks Germany!) it’s one of those little language gems with no direct English translation (as a linguist, I’m especially fond of those). It’s best summed up with a string of positive words such as cosiness, familiarity, togetherness…you get the gist.

Hygge in shadow of COVID-19

Anyway, my point is that hygge used to be lifestyle choice. Now, lighting clusters of calming candles and snuggling down with cup of herbal tea sounds as about as enticing as a night out with Boris.

Due to COVID-19, many of us are now confined to our own four walls. We’re hostages to hygge! How the world can be turned upside in a moment. So far in my household we’ve played cards, exhausted the jigsaw collection, danced to our Spotify family playlist in the kitchen and I’ve finally find time to make gift tags out of old Christmas cards with my Mum’s old pinking shears. My Indian Ganeshas have been re-curated to transcend daily obstacles.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed all of these activities. But while we’re on lockdown, I think we should also be keeping our brains active. Catch up on your favourite series on Netflix by all means, but perhaps also use the time to look at your position in life and give a name to some of the skills that will make you more marketable when we all come out of this. Especially if our jobs are on the line and the job market may have a different feel to it in a few months’ time. I know isn’t easy if you’re working from home and surrounded by children, but with a bit of routine in place, learning things in bitesize chunks is a genuinely workable approach.

Keeping our brains active

Here are four things you can do to challenge yourself while you are at home:

  1. Learn something new – for example, a new technology (many reputable universities including MIT and Stanford are offering free/low cost online classes at the moment), or a new language. There are so many ways to learn a language these days. I train people in English as a second language for professional purposes and having an hour of language learning online breaks up the monotony of WFH. There’ s so much to talk about on a human level right now. And my clients at the moment say they have time to do homework (in fact they actually like it!) and this means they’re making more progress. Listening to songs on www.lyrics.com is a great place to start if you like music. And following language providers on Instagram is fantastic for visual learners – for instance, if you are learning German, Heike Reinhart has a great Tips and Tricks on Instagram (international_german_teacher).

2. Take stock of YOU and your professional identity – what are your strengths and how do you lead in these uncharted waters? Consider how you can create a better workplace culture and encourage your teams in these precarious times. Be more human. We’re learning so many transferable skills at the moment such as resilience, complex problem solving and pragmatism. It’s worth grabbing a book and jotting down some key words down here –  it’s amazing how many people aren’t aware of their strengths, or can’t find the right words to describe some of the amazing things they’ve achieved. We’re living in times where people management dexterity including self- and social awareness are key 2020 leadership skills. Make notes about what COVID-19 has taught you about yourself. Update your LinkedIn profile and CV accordingly.

3. Start writing. Keep a journal or start a blog. Make it relevant and personal. Remember an idea is just an idea until it is written down on paper! If you don’t feel you are a natural writer but have ideas, visualise them in a mind map and work together with a blogger. It’s a good time to gather content for the winter months. Many of the things on our minds are universal themes and therefore timeless in terms of content.

4. Try skill swapping with contacts on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook etc. I have trained kids in English on Zoom and been paid in the form of graphic design work from a mother keen to get her children active during these days of home schooling. Another contact has edited some writing for me in return for a translation. Get to the bottom of that to do list!

On a practical level, it’s good to get some clarity to the day – try separating your days into chunks of work and rest. And embrace time with your family – engage with nature on your daily walks with children – identify plants and flowers and start making a log. This can also be turned into a language learning exercise for children. Home schooling doesn’t just have to take place on Google Classroom.

But first and foremost, breathe. It’s not always easy. Remember at times like these, there are far worse things to hunker down to than hygge.

For more information on online professional language training, global mindset coaching or blogging in English (or a combination of any of these), contact me at vanessa@paisley-communication.com