Acupuncture and Healthy Winter Hygge

By Alex Lochhead - Five Element Acupuncturist -


Have you heard of Hygge?  Pronounced Hoo-ga, it is a feeling that starts to become more prominent for me from October.  We probably all get it, though few of us in the UK realise there’s even a word for it.  Across Scandinavia, Hygge is much more than just a feeling, it’s a whole lifestyle and one I’m going to explore this winter and probably beyond…

Hygge means cosy.  There is no direct translation in English but if I fire a few keywords at you, you’ll get the meaning:

Warm, safe, relaxed, friends, pets, food, drink, duvet, secure, candles, home, together, healthy, rest, naps, mindfulness, fire, light, atmosphere, rugs.

There’s a little more to it than this too.  It’s also about enjoying the simple, everyday aspects of our lives, which we often take for granted.  For instance doing the chores.  Could Hygge be the secret to living more blissfully?  Try it.  Do an ordinary job such as the washing up with a Hygge in mind.  Get out a fresh tea towel and smell its clean scent.  Fill the sink with warm bubbly water and light a candle on the window sill or pop your favourite tune on.  Feel the warmth of the water and take time to look at your crocks as precious items of artwork.  Clean them, nurture them, absorb yourself.  Get a loved one to join in with the drying, or reminisce about memories of these crocks.  Do I sound nuts?  I don’t care…I’m giving it a go!

Get it?  I do and I’m all over the idea now that summer has packed its bags and headed south.  Yet, what has this got to do with an acupuncturist writing a blog?  A great deal, especially within the field of ‘Five Element Acupuncture’ which sees the seasons as having great importance on our mind/body.

The Five Element theory recognises that there is an ebb and flow to everything in the universe.  Nothing stands still and it is all in constant motion, just as in our bodies, the climate and the passing seasons.  Traditionally, most cultures respected this and lived within the parameters of the season:

  • Spring was a time of planning for crops and starting new projects within the community
  • Summer, with its longer days was a time for maximising work, being social, travelling more
  • Autumn a time of reflection, harvesting, ‘gathering in’ and preparation for the cold of;
  • Winter, which meant staying closer to home and protecting our reserves of food and energy.

Most of these traditional patterns are now gone and we forge on through the seasons in spite of them rather than inspired by them.

It is this fact that makes acupuncturists, particularly those following the Five Element traditions give a little tut and a silent weep at our modern folly.

Taking proper time to look after ourselves and our families and our homes with respect to the seasons has been thought to enable long and happy lives, according to Chinese medicinal traditions.  I, for one, am not going to argue with that.  There’s a reason acupuncture is still one of the most highly sought medicines in the world today as it was thousands of years ago.  It works.  I’m not going to explore the ways in which it works that, frankly, could take another dozen blog entries but in the main it seems to help us tune in with our more instinctive side and listen to what our bodies and minds require. 

Numerous patients tell me with a surprised look how well and long they slept after a treatment.  ‘Maybe it’s because that’s exactly what your body needed when you took time to listen and become more mindful,’ I reply. 

So, with the modern luxury of being able to pick and choose different cultural approaches to life, I am choosing a healthy hygge winter this year and regular acupuncture and massage treatments form part of this. 

Some of the following are also on my Healthy Hygge Hit list too:

  • Nutritious soups with complex carbs such as quinoa and pulses to keep my energy up
  • A tablespoon full of chia seed (omega 3 rich) over my breakfast yoghurt
  • Early nights, as appropriate, with a good book to boost my brain and mental functions
  • Scenting my home with organic essential oils known for their anti viral properties
  • Fortnightly massages and regular meditations to care for my body and mind
  • Getting as much sunlight as my work and weather permits
  • Taking a daily organic chlorella and wheatgrass supplement
  • Making more plans socially and getting people around for fun, food and togetherness
  • Taking time to value and enjoy the daily chores that form a safe secure home environment

As you can see, there’s no great mystery to Hygge and each and every one of us could create our own Hygge plan for winter.  There’s nothing complicated, costly or onerous about this self-care list, most of it is just a matter of getting it into your routine.

So, I invite you to draw the curtains this evening and sketch out a Hygge plan, you can find plenty of new ideas on a dedicated Facebook page (search for ‘Healthy Hygge’) drawn up by myself and my colleague Ingrid to inspire you to enjoy taking care of yourself.

Happy Hygge to you!

Alex Lochead is a Five Element Acupuncturist with seven years experience, working in Harrogate and York. Through his work, Alex has had the opportunity to meet a great mix of people and help them find their flow. To read more about Alex click here

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