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16 Ways to Make Winter Break Comfy and Cozy


December 21, 2022

Winter break is a great time to experience that cozy feeling of comfort and contentment the Danish call “hygge.”

Hygge (pronounced: “hyoo-guh”) is all about simple, inexpensive, and uncomplicated pleasures. These winter break ideas embody that spirit by being easy to pull off and requiring little investment. They create warm memories with not that much effort!

Why Time Off Is Important

The first rule of a cozy winter break: No work! Whether you’re a teacher or student on winter break or you simply have some holiday PTO coming up, this is a time to recharge rather than charge ahead.

Research by the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered a shocking statistic – 745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to long working hours. The study found that working 55 or more hours a week was associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease compared with working a 35-40 hour week.

With the pandemic fueling staff shortages and longer working hours, it’s more important now than ever to be aware of the effect too much work could potentially have on your physical health.

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16 Tips for a Comfy, Cozy Winter Break

People love the concept of hygge because it helps them define and prioritize the values that make meaningful moments and memories.

For example, if family time means a lot to you, consider having the whole gang over for crock pot chili. You can laugh, play games, and watch a holiday movie while the chili simmers. That’s more hygge than hosting an elaborate, stressful meal that means you spend all day in the kitchen.

Bring more coziness to your winter break with these tips:

1. Set the stage for a comfy winter break by calming at least one room

Hygge doesn’t require perfection. But if you have a week or more off, invest part of the first day toward making your home more calm. Some research shows that cleaning and decluttering can improve your mental health, bringing a sense of order to your home that combats stress. Even if you only ready one room, that one room can be your cozy refuge for the days to come.

2. Set low-key goals for cozy comfort

Research shows people are actually happier when they set goals for vacations, weekends, and evenings. So, set relaxation goals like “Spend more time snuggling,” “Teach my dog to play fetch,” or “Read a good novel.”

3. Give yourself the gift of a new craft hobby

What sounds cozier than making yourself a warm scarf? Multiple studies have shown that crafting hobbies like crocheting or knitting have a positive effect on mental health. Winter break is the perfect time to teach yourself something new.

PRO TIP: There are tons of video tutorials on YouTube to guide you in learning a new craft. You’ll find everything from fiber arts to watercolor painting!

4. Get outside to make winter break memorable

If “cozy” makes you think of indoor scenes only, you’re limiting yourself to only half of the possible hygge goodness. Making s’mores at a campfire, starting a snowball fight, and planning a picnic can all be cozy, happy holiday fun.

PRO TIP: Spending time outside is good for your mental health.

5. Play soft music to set the mood

Any activity seems cozier with music playing in the background. Even a simple meal of takeout leftovers will seem more elegant if you light a candle and play some quiet music.

6. Bring everyone to the table with board or card games

Whether it’s a poker night with friends or some rounds of Candyland with the kids, board games can make magical memories. Gathering around the table with people you love, sharing snacks and drinks? You can’t beat that! If your family tends to bicker or get too competitive over board games for the activity to be relaxing, then consider a collaborative game where everyone is solving a puzzle or challenge together.

7. Add soup to the menu for your hygge meals

Food is a key part of cozy holiday rituals. Luckily, soup is a cozy food that offers health benefits! Studies have found that people who eat soup tend to consume fewer calories and get more fiber and vitamins. A hearty bean soup will warm you after a day outside, or a festive seafood stew can make any day seem luxurious.

8. Create your own holiday light tour

Many communities offer special holiday light displays, often held as charity fundraisers. Those are fun, but in most places, you can also make your own impromptu holiday light tour. Take an evening drive or walk to admire your neighbors’ festive lights!

PRO TIP: Safety first! If you’re walking at night, wear light colors so you can be seen.

9. Decorate an outdoor tree with edible treats for birds and animals

Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the first day of winter. Many people celebrate the solstice by decorating an outdoor tree with peanut butter ornaments or cranberry garlands. It’s a gift to birds and other animals!

10. Reduce holiday pressure by doing something non-seasonal

Sometimes, we feel a lot of pressure to create picture-perfect holiday experiences. That can be especially hard if you aren’t feeling merry. If this holiday is hard for you, it might help to rebel against seasonal expectations. Celebrate a tropical night by making margaritas and watching beach movies with a friend. Or watch horror movies and pretend it’s spooky season all over again.

11. Select a word or phrase to live by in 2023

Making a new year’s resolution can seem dutiful or even depressing. How many years are we going to resolve to eat better only to find ourselves grabbing fast food on the go by mid-January?

Instead of making a resolution, pick a word or phrase that will define your year. You could declare a “year of yes,” choosing to accept more invitations and opportunities. Or make “empowerment” your word for the year and take charge of advancing your career or personal life.

12. Become one of those relaxed and healthy tea drinkers

Have you ever noticed that people who drink tea often seem happy, relaxed, and “together?” It’s not your imagination. Studies have found that tea is great for your body and soul. Winter break is a great time to get to know tea – sampling different gourmet varieties and discovering the ones that make you feel the best.

13. Share old photos with friends and family

Not everyone has access to antique photos, but most of us do have quite a few old-ish photos on our phones. Take some time to look at your oldest photos and share them via a quick text to others who might be interested. It’s a great way to enjoy a quick moment of connection as we say goodbye to another year.

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14. Start a gratitude journal

If you are the kind of person who loves journaling, you already love this idea. But for the rest of us, here’s the good news – gratitude journaling is the easiest kind of journaling. You don’t have to think much or even form complete sentences. Every day, simply write down one thing you are grateful for. It can be something simple like “I found my gloves” or “I got a good parking spot at work today.” Research says taking just a moment to dwell on small gratitudes can have positive health implications.

15. Spend an afternoon planning a trip for next spring or summer

Studies show that people experience more happiness from planning and looking forward to a trip than they do from the trip itself. So if you’re taking a vacation this spring or summer, start planning now! You (and any travel partners) can cozy up on the sofa looking for restaurants to dine in or places to visit during your trip.

PRO TIP: You don’t have to plan a big, fancy trip – even a weekend getaway just far enough from home to feel like a vacation can be a treat!

16. Use the power of smell to make your home feel cozier

Your sense of smell is closely related to memory and emotion. That means you experience personal reactions to smell. Lavender can be super relaxing to one person but bring back stressful memories of an ex-mother-law to another! Be deliberate about adding positive smells to your environment over winter break. You can do this by baking brownies, burning a candle, or using a diffuser to pick and choose new favorite scents.

PRO TIP: Try making a holiday simmer pot! Someday, maybe you’ll look back on it and realize that new smell reminds you of the happy winter break in 2022!