I actually love winter. So serene and restful. ahhh. I am sure it’s due in part to my DNA; 100% pure Scandinavian. Nordic. Well, actually Danish and Icelandic. You know,  “land of the midnight sun”? Yes but the part they don’t tell you is how many hours of darkness there are on the other side of the calendar. You need to hear about how those sunny Scandinavians cope with it. Heck, more than cope with it, they actually glow.

Meanwhile, in Nebraska. “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray”….. The lyrics drift through my head, twist and wrap around my mood as I look out the window at a world all dry and brown. Sometimes my mood, in a mysterious chameleon-like change of color, begins to match what I see through the window. Brown and gray. This year seems to have melted away more quickly than ever and now I stare at the calendar with stark realization that there are only six weeks left until 2015. Really?

We had a little snow today beginning with the light powdered sugar dusting I saw when I awakened in the pre-dawn hours. It continued to snow most of the day and a fresh white snow blanket makes everything look cleaner and softer. I like that. Our days are getting shorter and shorter as we slide toward the winter solstice and many days Mr. Sun can only shine weakly in a feeble attempt to warm things up a bit. I do appreciate his effort, it must be hard for him at times.

A blog post caught my eye this week. It quickly snapped me back to back to my more normal upbeat self. The article was entitled How ‘Hygge’ Can Help You Get Through Winter.  My dad was a pure Dane and I remember him talking about hygge. The post was about Denmark, long known as the happiest country on the planet and hygge. It’s a word that defies both definition and pronunciation in English. (But it sounds something like HYU-gah,  with a short u sound.)  More than a thing they do, it is actually a very deliberate and intentional mood adjustment the Danes make to create brightness, happiness, contentment and comfort during their winter nights, much longer and darker than ours.

If you ask a Dane about it they might shrug their shoulders and tell you it is about candles, cake, coffee and chocolate, comforters, board games and mulled wine shared with family and friends, stuff like that. Fuzzy definitions, all different. Danes are simple and have modest needs to enjoy life. It’s more mental than anything. hygge is a down shift to a mind set where nothing disturbs the self induced state of serenity. In Denmark, hygge allows for conviviality to balance out consumerism and all the Christmas materialism we collide with here every year about this time.

I’m going to get me some hygge for the rest of this year and while I am at it I’ll spend a little less time decorating and a little more time sitting with a cup of cocoa in my hand, listening to some of my favorite Christmas music. I will sit quietly, staring into the fireplace, and practice squinting at the tiny white lights on the tree like I did when I was a kid.(If you hold your eyes just right you can make it look like they all have tiny halos around them.)  I’ll slow down a time or two and watch a sappy movie all cuddled in a quilt and I will devote some extra time to reading Luke’s story of the birth of our Savior and savor the peace.

Ah, just thinking about it is making me feel warmer inside. I walked past a mirror and caught a glimpse of myself. Wait! Is that a bit of a glow I see? I believe it is!

Betty Streff

Betty Streff began her career as a customer service representative for a large corporation in Omaha. Four years later she found herself to be a farm wife in a small rural community with limited opportunities for women. After a humbling self assessment, she listed her assets as talents for sketching, sewing, and the natural ability to strike up conversations with complete strangers. Using these and her optimistic nature, she began stitching up some bibs and pillows for a craft show, who wouldn't? Over the next 25 years she became a serial entrepreneur obsessed with studying faith, spirituality, leadership, motivation, and management as she developed her businesses. Betty has spent the last few years working in corporate America in the hospitality and manufacturing world and she continues to immerse herself in the study of what makes people tick. The explosive growth in the relatively recent science of positive psychology fascinates her. Betty devours everything she can find on the subject and is especially intrigued with people who thrive no matter the circumstances and in discovering ways that happiness and optimism can be learned. She is currently exploring ways of sharing and cultivating the exciting possibilities with both individuals and businesses. She and her husband Steve have been married 45 years and are blessed with 2 incredible daughters, 2 fantastic sons-in-law and 6 amazing grandchildren.