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Embrace the Winter Months, Before During and After Christmas

hayley mcdonnell life lessons lifestyle the retreat Dec 18, 2023
Embrace the Winter Months, Before During and After Christmas.

By Hayley McDonnell.

In the UK, the winter months are creeping closer. I have purposefully used the adjective as the change is gradual, though expected. Some days, it is bright and sunny, just like today where I am, and other times, there is frost on the windscreen, and it's definitely feeling chilly when I get out of bed. It is time to start preparing for a Just Hygge winter.



With a shift of mindset, consider embracing this time to enjoy all aspects of a slow-living lifestyle.

It is time to move inwards into your home and a smaller, carefully curated social circle. Bring out the candles, comfort food and warm drinks, too.

Invest in cosy lighting that draws you in and encourages a time of rest and calm. The right kind of lighting at different times of the year can positively and negatively affect our mental health and well-being.

Next time you are 'outside', at work, in a supermarket, cafe, or someone's home, take a look at the lighting and how it influences your mood. Ideally, look for ways to bring light into your life that is calming and soothing and invite a lifestyle choice of simplicity. Yet again, I advocate that less is more, even more so in this case.

Look forward to turning those lights on, but not too much!!

Try candles and use them safely (a priority) around your home—an instant flicker of happiness with the striking of the match and the first wick lit. Consider using battery-powered tea lights if you cannot have a traditional lit candle.

Enjoy this special Hygge experience before you have lit your candle by shopping for candle stick holders and strategically placing them around your home so you are ready for that first match strike.


Food to Share

The balance between healthy choices and yummy food is real, and you will decide where the metaphorical (or literal ) scales shift for you. A winter evening with the right candlelight and a blanket to snuggle under almost cries for something less than healthy... but again, balance is the key.

A pastry

A piece of cake

Chopped fruits and nuts

Vegetable sticks


For even more Just Hygge (I refer to this as Hygge plus), bake all the goodies for yourself!


The Great Outdoors

Not so great if you are cold and wet, and or your feet hurt, compounding the miserableness you then feel. The British obsession with the weather should mean we are always prepared... no judgement here.

Walking has many benefits; the environment is always a consideration, and the mental health and well-being feelings are too.

With suitable clothes and the right attitude, you can soon adopt the mantra, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes". Going outside in all weathers, with suitable clothes and an appropriate attitude, you will feel a massive sense of accomplishment, increasing when you return to your Just Hygge and cosy home with all the winter delights to indulge in.

Start where you are with the clothes and equipment you have and slowly build up your collection so you are ready in all weather.


Home Sweet Home

I am a huge advocate of 'it's never the place but the people who create the right atmosphere for enjoyable and sociable times'.

Enjoy a lifestyle which focuses on curated communities and social circles. In winter, spending time socialising with loved ones is even more enjoyable. The caveat here is that the time spent together will be in your home or as a guest in someone else's home. The sense of belonging is heightened with home-cooked food and a gathering of like-minded souls taking precedence over eating out or even takeaway food. Again, the less is more philosophy prevails; with close friends and family members as part of your gathering, the relaxed, cosy feeling you seek is there for enjoyment.


Entertainment With Ease and Flow

The cost-of-living crisis in the UK and worldwide is here to stay. With all the negative connotations associated with that fact we already know, it is time to shift to a new perspective with a Just Hygge flavour. With that in mind, consider learning a new skill that can be useful to others and has little financial impact.

This year, I am knitting squares to turn into a blanket. I know how to knit and am teaching all I come across to start knitting using the basic knit stitch. This includes sixth-form boys at a school where I have been teaching. For them, the benefits to their increasing stress levels have been immense as they have focused time on 'something else with the additional knowledge that what they are producing will help someone else. We have yet to choose where the completed blanket or, ideally, blankets will go, but it will be to a good cause. Pick up some wool and needles from a charity shop and start; a YouTube tutorial might be helpful for those who are complete novices. A simple skill and activity that can be completed at home fulfil all the Just Hygge criteria. Make it a winter challenge that you can pick up again any time of year. Also, please get in touch with me if you want to knit and contribute to this community blanket I am making. All squares are welcome.

If you don't feel crafty, then I recommend a board game. Candlelight, soft music, and sitting around a table sharing an evening is nothing short of Just Hygge. I suggest games without an overt competitive element or are noisy at their core. However, I appreciate that there will always be an element of winning and losing!

Embrace the slow times and gentle living and lean into valuing this special space more than the busy times with the Just Hygge philosophy of living intentionally with ease and flow.

Before then, let me know what your Hygge winter plans look like. I'd love to hear!


Hayley McDonnell is a passionate advocate of the just Hygge philosophy, living each day with intention and ease and flow at its core. A former teacher/middle manager of 24+ years, she has worked through several transitions and continues to do so. 

A mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter and so on; despite these guises, the one golden thread that runs throughout is the desire to be happy and live a life of truth. This is where the concept of Hygge takes prominence.

Hayley hopes that her blogs provide a conduit for sharing the Hygee lifestyle and its benefits; you can contact her here.



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