Inside the simple joys of living slow and in moderation
In 2016, Time magazine published an article asking: “Is it bad to be inside all day?”. While the piece doesn’t definitively say so, it leans more towards “yes” than “no”.
Fast forward to lockdown number three in the UK, where most of us will have spent closer to a year living almost all of our lives from the inside of our homes. By now, the concept of “staying in” feels as cruel as it is obsolete (there’s no “out” to “stay in” from), and can be even trickier to deal with during the dark winter months.
Also in 2016, the Danish concept of “hygge” took the UK by storm. While the hype around hygge has long since peaked, we can look to Northern European cultures of slow living and moderation for guidance on how to cope during lockdown.
A central tenet of hygge — and adjacent concepts used by other countries — is creating a sense of warm cosiness, where you feel at peace and able to enjoy being in the moment. This sounds logical enough, but the design of a space has been shown to influence how we feel and behave, as well as modulate how comfortable and focused we feel in a given moment. If you design a space to look comfortable, then you should feel comfortable within it.
Beauty was also found to be an important measure of our desire to live in a place and our sense of wellbeing when we’re in it. We can see hygge, then, as a way to arrange our living spaces to be both comforting and beautiful — whatever that means to us.
As an individual pursuit, hygge might mean invoking beautiful imagery, associations, or even smells, if that makes a space feel safe and peaceful. Meke Wiking in her 2016 book The Little Book of Hygge names ten aspects of hygge to consider when designing your space: atmosphere, presence, pleasure, equality, gratitude, harmony, comfort, truce, togetherness, and shelter. To you, that might look like scented candles stylised next to some trinkets or creating a cosy reading nook with plush cushions.
The art of doing nothing
Further south, the Dutch concept of “niksen” — translating literally to “doing nothing” — describes the art of doing something without the intention of achieving something or being productive. It’s a form of relaxation, to simply let ourselves “be” without any pressure whatsoever.
It’s important not to confuse niksen with laziness. Niksen is not an excuse for not contributing to the household chores, for example, but rather a way to reframe downtime as something we don’t need to answer for; an escape from the “always-on” mentality.
This could be as simple as taking a tea break and sitting to drink it without doing anything else in particular. Your mind is allowed to wander — something that can help promote inspiration to achieve your goals and encourage creative thought.
Not too much; not too little
The Swedish concept of “lagom” speaks to living moderately, with just enough possessions to live a balanced and functional life. Roughly translated to “not too much, not too little — just right”, lagom is a philosophy for living that values creating balance as a way to achieve contentment.
This can translate into home interiors through the principles of sustainability, for example, in which you are taking less from the planet while still enjoying your home comforts. Another interpretation of lagom might be decluttering your home, something that is known to impact our sense of wellbeing. One 2016 study found that a sense of attachment to one’s home was undermined by excessive clutter, which can also contribute to feelings of distress and a sense of displacement.
For us in lockdown, lagom can help to remind us to focus on the simple pleasures in what we do have, or to foster a sense of acceptance around certain aspects of our lives that have gone from “fulfilling” to “adequate”.
Whether any of these philosophies appeal to you or not, a tried-and-true way to boost mental health is to try and spend some time outside. Walking has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms, can benefit people with anxiety, and even help to improve self-esteem. Researchers in 2017 found that if you can’t make it outside, simply listening to sounds recorded from natural environments can have a similar effect.
Community is at the heart of everything we do at Kindred and while we are closed in line with national guidance, it’s important to us to engage with and support our community as best we can. We hope that our content and events series during this time have helped to inspire and uplift, and perhaps even encourage you to try something new
Share this article