The Handbook on Lockdown Living – by Rev. Heather McCarrel

In his book, The Little Book of Hygge: the Danish Way to Live Well, Meik Wiking from the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen shares research on what brings enduring happiness. Interestingly, what he discovers would make the perfect handbook for those of us still living these pandemic days in places of government regulated “stay at home” restrictions.

The very word, hygge, according to Wiking, means “as creating a feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.” Wiking has discovered that what brings lasting happiness isn’t material possessions and job promotions but instead the simple things of life that create hygge in our home- lit candles, coffee and dessert, a good book, a quiet nook for reflection, sitting by the window with a good cup of tea watching the weather change, and enjoying a crackling campfire.

Thankfully, this book came into my possession just as COVID-19 was arriving back in March 2020. After reading Wiking’s findings I decided to create hygge in my home. That night at supper I announced we were about to embark on a new experiment. We were going to purposely cultivate happiness in our home despite the pandemic. Then immediately after grace was shared, I lit a candle. Every evening since a candle has been lit at our dinner table. Apparently, true hygge cannot be reached without candle light!

      photo by Margaret Jaszouwska with                              permission/Unsplash

Also, as instructed by Wiking, I started to brew coffee just before supper with the aroma filling the kitchen. And as instructed we began to have dessert every evening. It was mandatory for this experiment to be complete, so dessert has been served daily. Sometimes it is just a store-bought cookie or, more recently, a seasonal treat as we make our way around a strawberry rhubarb pie.

The post-supper coffee has been scaled down to merely a ¾ cup as we discovered our aging bodies do not tolerate caffeine in the evening so well, keeping us up well beyond our usual bedtimes. However, that small cup of coffee has become a routine part of watching the evening news, a warm comfort as I listen to all the happenings around the world.

We also created a comfy nook in our home, a hyggekrog. This simple space was created around our fireplace and as instructed there is no technology. Instead, just comfortable chairs and a table covered with excellent books. This small space has become big in our home; a place of conversations and quiet reflection.

As we are coming to the end of this third and last lockdown and nearing the “new beginning” of vaccine living, I have wondered if it is necessary to continue in our hygge habits. One afternoon, while sitting around our hyggekrog, I posed the question and after some conversation it was decided that hygge living is here to stay. These simple every day practices anchor us in the decision to be happy. Happiness, much like joy, doesn’t happen by accident. It is a deliberate practice to be happy.

Besides, I think the best way to praise to God is to spend our days happy with what we have been given. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “it is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes us happy.”

Rev. Heather McCarrel