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Why “nesting” and “hygge” are more than just trends

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Despite the clicky terms, this concepts is nothing new and something we all need.

Today’s social media culture loves giving trendy names to things people have actually been doing all along. Such is the case with “nesting,” a cool way of describing “staying at home for the weekend.” The coolest trendy words, of course, come from other languages; just say “hygge” (pronounced “HOO-gah”) instead of “nesting” and you’ll sound all sophisticated and fashionable.

Call them what you will, many trends today — organic food, urban gardening, and retro or vintage clothing and furniture — seem to reflect a desire, in the midst of a culture of mass production, processed food, and shrink-wrapped everything, to reconnect with ourselves, with nature, and with an idealized past. (When we’re not using our smart phones, that is …)

Whether you call it nesting or hygge — that Danish word for spending time together in a cozy environment, which is cooler but much harder to pronounce than nesting — the concept is focused on rediscovering the pleasure of being at home, feeling comfortable, “loosening up time” resting and relaxing, without having to do anything in particular. It’s something like the opposite of (and maybe a reaction to) the craziness of the ’80s and ’90s, when going out to clubs and bars to have fun was a dominant trend, and staying home meant you were somehow a failure.

We live in a society full of stress, in which the pace of life seems to increase year by year, and certain technological and social realities favor isolation, mobility, and disconnectedness. In the end, trends like hygge or nesting reflect the fact that people always have a deep desire to find a place where we can grow roots; a place to come home to.

In a recent article on nesting published in the Spanish periodical El País, Dr. Vicente Saavedra of the Integral Medicine Clinic of Barcelona explained that the human body, cells, and organs “need rest to repair themselves.” Therefore, on weekends we need to decrease our rhythm of life and make up the hours of sleep we may have missed during the week.

Why? When our body is stressed, it releases cortisol, a hormone which, if present for prolonged periods of time, can have a serious effect on health. For example, it can cause a habitual excess of acid in the stomach, depression of the immune system, weight gain, and hypertension — and over the long term, osteoporosis.

Cortisol comes from stress; a healthy amount of rest and relaxation is important for reducing cortisol and, consequently, improving our health. Therefore, taking a siesta (another healthy trend word), sewing, tending the garden, baking bread, or doing origami (or whatever your favorite hobby may be) is good for your health. Here, science offers some confirmation: of all the forms of occupational therapy for fighting depression, one of the ones that works best is baking, according to a study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy,

The best school of happiness and life is in our own home

Resting at home isn’t only important for us to renew our energy and rest from stress; it’s also a special opportunity for us to strengthen the family ties between spouses and among parents and children.

María José Roldán, an expert in special education, explains it like this: “The family is the best school that could ever exist, and the one with the greatest weight in the education and development of children. The way you love others is something you start to learn when you are very young. Children are able to observe the smallest details of our behavior — even those which we, as adults, don’t notice.”

“The world of our emotions and sentiments is of great importance for us as human beings. Often, the demands and environment of our daily jobs lead us to neglect the people we love most. Spending time with those we love is one of the best signs of happiness and quality of life,” he adds.

Home is a safe base of operations, a reference point we need in life as the starting point of our personal and family growth. The psychological sciences emphasize the importance of emotional security. A home doesn’t necessarily offer that, but it can and should if we create the right conditions to spend time together with people we love — especially our family — doing things we enjoy. We can see the effect of the privation of these things in people who are homeless and live in conditions of extreme poverty.

And so, long live nesting, or hygge, or whatever you want to call it! Enjoy your weekend at home!

This article was written in collaboration with Javier Fiz Pérez, a psychologist, professor of psychology, and delegate for the development of international research at the European University of Rome, and Scientific Research Director at the European Institute of Positive Psychology (IEPP, from its abbreviation in Spanish).

This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia, and has been translated and/or adapted here for English-speaking readers.

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