A key element of happiness is the ability to cope with transition. There are people who go into a blue funk at every major life change. And there are people who greet the annual change of seasons by letting their faces get longer as the days get shorter.


If you or your child are moody and sluggish throughout the winter, it may be a medical condition requiring therapy (an upcoming post will address this). But if you’re simply pining for brighter days, there are ways to boost your family’s moods and appreciate the unique joys of winter.

Happiness Is Hygge

Take a tip from the Danes, who stay contented through long dark winters by making the most of snugness and intimacy. They even have a word for it: hygge (HOO-guh), which has found its way into English.

The key elements of hygge are:

Small groups in cozy quarters. Gather your family in a circle for storytelling, singing, and sharing. Break out quilts and afghans for everyone to wrap themselves in (two to a quilt).

Good food, rich in starches and protein, and (of course) served hot. Hearty soups, potato dishes, and pastries are classics. Double the fun, and the togetherness, by letting everyone help make the meal.

Soft lighting. Turn off overhead bulbs and light some candles, kindle a fire in the fireplace, or plug in some blue-green lights.

Make Time for the Family

Hygge wouldn’t be hygge without your closest loved ones. And family isn’t family if you’re always “too busy” to pay attention to them. A child whose parents are always out earning money “so the kids can have the best of everything” is an unhappy child wishing for fewer things and more personal attention.

This holds true any time of year, but even more in winter when playing-outside options are limited. Hopefully, you’re already in the habit of keeping family social time and holding regular family meetings. If not, now is a good time to start, while everyone has more indoor time and the imminent turn of the year has everyone’s mind on change and fresh starts.


And if snow or icy roads surprise you with a stay-home day, don’t look for extra work to catch up on. Find a fun family activity to fill the time: a game, a craft project, a reading circle

Immunize Your Family Against Post-Holiday Letdown

It’s not just a matter of mourning the end of the festivities: human tendency, after putting a lot of energy into any major project, is to “crash” into depression after it’s over. Physically, the body finally feels free to let fatigue take over. Psychologically, there’s a sense of “I put my whole life into this and it’s gone; what’s left for me?”

You can reduce post-holiday blues—and help your family transition smoothly into the new year—by:


Keeping regular quiet time throughout the holiday season.

Staying physically healthy: regular activity, adequate sleep, no overeating.

Having plans and goals to start on at the beginning of January.

Counting your blessings all day, every day, whatever the time of year. Start with how blessed you are to have such a wonderful family!