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Looking after our wellbeing with a little Hygge

"Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen, but seldom.”

Benjamin Franklin

There's something about stepping over the threshold of The Famous Virgins & Castle that sparks a feeling of pleasure, happiness and relaxation. Meeting with friends and loved ones. Taking time out of your day to reflect and catch up with others and particularly to enjoy your favourite drink and something delicious to eat.

All of these things are so interlinked with happiness and wellbeing and it's no accident that your favourite pub, restaurant or cafe can evoke these feelings and positive vibes!

We invest a lot of time and thought into creating a special place at the Virgins & Castle. Not only for our guests but for our team too and we've been recently shortlisted for an industry award for staff wellbeing from the British Institute of Innkeepers for all of the work we do behind the scenes.

We wanted to share with you some of the things that inspire us and how we approach wellbeing at the pub. If this year has taught us one thing, it certainly has been to look after ourselves and others. Gemma Carter-Morris, Head of People at Caviar & Chips and The Virgins & Castle takes us through some of the principles of Hygge, how we do this at the pub and some tips on how you can do this yourself at home.

In Denmark, people recommend cafes, bars and restaurants based on their ‘Hygge factor’, being warm and cosy, congregating around a fireplace, having a mulled wine, being warm and with friends and family and having a sense of wellbeing based on good food and good company whilst it is cold and dark outside.

Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the most happiest countries in the world and some of the factors that contribute to this are a sense of community, social support, the joys from increased generosity amongst citizens and the overall happiness of those that lead a healthy lifestyle. Other Scandinavian countries also ranked very highly and one concept that is very popular in these countries is ‘Hygge’ (hyoo·guh).

Hygge isn’t an easy concept to define (or pronounce), but it is about experience, cosiness and atmosphere rather than things. It is about feeling safe and and being with those we love. I think it is summed up perfectly by the wonderful Winnie the Pooh when asked how to spell a certain emotion ‘You don’t spell it, you feel it’.

As we move into the winter following a year when we have faced many challenges, restrictions and worry, let's use the concept of Hygge to support our wellbeing. Let’s not be defined by the weather or the situation around us, let's control what we can, enjoy the simple pleasures in life, take life a little slower, look after others and be grateful of our family, friends and the beauty of the world around us.

Whilst this year may be a little different we can still be grateful for what we have and still take many of the concepts of Hygge to ensure we find the positives in even the most difficult of situations.

The festive season is about friends and family and whilst this year it might be a little more virtual than normal we can still enjoy those connections and social interactions. Use this year as an opportunity to bring back those traditions of our childhood or make new traditions for our family and friends which could include new recipes or making those dishes we enjoyed as a child. Put up your decorations up a little earlier this year and don’t forget lots of twinkling lights and candles built into your decorations, think about making your own decorations and up-cycling ones you already have.

We like to think of our pub as embracing the Hygge concept. We are here to give you that warm, cosy feeling when you visit us, bringing together friends and family to have a treat, enjoy time together in a familiar setting - something the Virgins & Castle has been doing for hundreds of years.

Here's a summary of the key concepts from Hygge and how you can make them part of your everyday, so you feel a little more Hygge:

Atmosphere - 'Turn down the lights’

Candles and Hygge go hand in hand with 28% of Danes lighting candles every day and 74% lighting candles at least three times per week with candle usage going up three fold in December.

The flickering amber glow of a candle can give such joy and once again embodies that feeling of cosiness. However light more generally is important in Hygge and the strategic placement and use of lamps can create soothing pools of light and particularly in winter, lighting can help to make up for the long dark days we all experience.

Pleasure - ‘Coffee, chocolate, cookies and cake.........’

Hygge is about being kind to yourself, giving yourself a treat and a break from the demands of healthy living, something naughty is an integral part of Hygge, not something fancy or extravagant and even more important is when it is all shared together. This is so important to those living in Denmark that the Danes eat on average 8.2kg of confectionary per person, twice the average of those in the rest of Europe. Hot drinks are also the top thing that people associate with Hygge, be that tea, coffee, hot chocolate or mulled wine.

Presence - ‘Be here now - turn off the phone’

Being present means fully enjoying the moment that you are in, it is the moment when you are calm and you know exactly what you want. You are focussed on what you’re doing without thinking about anything else. So how can you be more present, think about weaving in the following into your day; celebrating tiny joys, practise mindfulness or yoga or take time for some practised breathing, savour the daily rituals that give you pleasure and unplug from the digital world.

Gratitude - ‘Take it in, this might be as good as it gets’

Research has shown that those that feel grateful are not only happier but are more helpful, forgiving and less materialistic. Keep a notebook with you and use this to journal, this could be to write down what you are grateful for, what you have achieved that week, what you are proud of or even what Hygge moments you have had over the past months. When re-reading our journals, this can help us enjoy these experiences again, think about what experiences we would like to have in the future and make us feel more positive emotions.

Comfort - ‘Get comfy, take a break, its all about relaxation’

Comfort is key to Hygge and this is enjoyed through the clothing that people wear and winter is the perfect time to enjoy wooly hats and scarfs, big jumpers and lots of layers. When at home, its about wearing your favourite warm and comfy clothes, big socks and slippers, your favourite sweatshirt and wrapping yourself up under a blanket.

It's here that Andy wanted us to mention his Christmas jumper (tenuous link!). But we will all be wearing our Christmas jumpers on Friday 11th December and support Save the Children, so make sure you book your table in advance...and wear your jumper!

Togetherness - ‘Build relationships and narratives’

In Denmark, 78% of people socialise with family, friends or colleagues at least once a week, 18% higher than in the rest of Europe. Hygge mostly happened in groups of close friends and family as opposed to individually and very much focusses on everyone being equal and everybody contributing. For example when preparing a meal at home - everyone is involved in the cooking and cleaning up.

Shelter - ‘This is your place of peace and security’

71% of Danes experience the most Hygge at home and home is central to social life in Denmark and there are some very specific ways to make your home more Hygge; having a hyggekrog - a nook, a place where you can snuggle up with a blanket and a book, enjoying the warmth of a fireplace, lots of candles, wooden furniture, bookshelves filled with books, a great teapot, vintage accessories which make us feel nostalgic and of course, plenty of cushions and blankets.

Here are the top 10 things that Danes associate with Hygge:

1. Hot drinks

2. Candles

3. Fireplaces

4. Christmas

5. Board games

6. Music

7. Holiday

8. Sweets and cake

9. Books

10. Sundays (makes us think of our famous Sunday roast!)

We'd love to know how you bring a little Hygge into your day. Please do share your ideas, photos and suggestions and we can't wait to see you in the pub very soon. Don't forget to book your table early for the festive season and check out all of the events we have planned to celebrate together.


Useful Links - want to find out more about Hygge here are some links to more information or books you can read:

Happiness Research Institute The Little Book of Hygge - Meik Wiking

The Little Book of Lykke - Meik Wiking

The Key to Happiness - Meik Wiking

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