It’s likely you’ve heard of hygge, the Danish art of coziness, but if you’re anything like me, then perhaps your sweater is covered in pulls, or you wear unmatched socks that have a hole in both big toes and desperately need darning, or when you look in the mirror, your hair resembles more of a bird’s nest than an effortlessly knotted perfect bun.
If your coffee is cold in the mug before you sit down to drink it, and try as you may, you just can’t pull off hygge, it’s time to consider the art of Finnish relaxation instead: kalsarikannit.
And chances are, this isolation period you’ve already been partaking.
Kalsarikannit loosely translates to being “pantdrunks” in English. The semantic meaning is harder to capture; try to picture sitting at home, in your underwear – or sweatpants – getting drunk, with no intention of going out.
Sounds like bliss to me.
Hear me out: In Finland, getting drunk in one’s underwear is not something to pity. Like hygge, kalsarikannit is all about what is good for the soul.
It is about comfort in both what you’re wearing and in your mental self. With kalsarikannit, there is no intention of going out. For me, here lies the best bit: When you remove any intention of going out, like the imposed lockdown has done, staying in becomes comforting. It’s a mindful act.
Finnish author of “Pantsdrunk” and kalsarikannit expert, Miska Rantanen, agrees.
“I can have a pleasant time on my own, feeling absolutely not guilty,” he says. “Kalsarikannit doesn’t demand over-the-top arrangements, so [it represents] affordability and democra[cy].”
Peel off your clothes down to your underwear. Place savory or sweet snacks within reach. Make sure your television remote control is nearby. Open your preferred alcohol. Your journey toward inner strength, higher quality of life, and peace of mind has begun.
Finland even has its very own ‘pantsdrunk’ emoji to send your friends.
Many Nordic traditions are interwoven with the harsh winter weather conditions. As we see with Danish hygge, Swedish lagom, and of course Finnish kalsarikännit, staying indoors is an integral part of their culture. The icy conditions are perfect for recreating warmth inside homes via these interesting philosophies.
Staying at home, yet acting social — albeit alone — is akin to reaching a state of equilibrium. The need for escape from the chaos of everyday life and the desire to unwind fit together like the puzzles we have all been making lately.
For me, I like to practice kalsarikännit in my pajamas pants with a glass of red wine and some chocolate. Often, I will end up texting friends discussing various life philosophies, inane chat, or banter. Other times, I will sip my drink and binge watch a TV show. Sometimes, I choose to write.
It is about going-with-the-flow of how you feel in the moment.
Regardless of how I decide to spend the night, it’s not the effect of alcohol effects that I find relaxing (though I’m sure it helps!); it’s the practice of unwinding and enjoying my own company. As I sit, sip, and ponder with no deadlines or plans to adhere too, the weight of motherhood, work and every day life diminish.
Rantanen does warn: “If you are facing [a] hangover in the morning, then you’ve gone over the line.”
According to a Nordic alcohol consumption report, Finns typically consume alcohol at home (77 percent of drinking episodes).
Rantanen believes there are a few explanations for this tendency to drink at home. “Finland was very rural country until late 1950s, so we do not have a rich and deep restaurant culture — like, for example, in Mediterranean countries,” he says.
You don’t have to be alone to achieve kalsarikannit, but it does imply smaller social occasions. Think you and your girlfriend or neighbor (if lockdown laws allow company) home on the couch with your choice of cocktail, beer, or straight liquor and minimal effort in your appearance. Ditch the sequins and spanx and throw on your favorite sweater and sweatpants.
“[Wear] anything that is comfortable! Take off all your clothes that are too tight. If your apartment is too chilly, a nice wool blanket will be nice,” says Miska Rantanen.
It’s easy to think mindfulness is only about meditation or yoga, but you can find mindfulness in chaos or more unorthodox relaxations methods such as “pantsdrunk.”
If you’re practicing mindfulness, you are making conscious decisions and acknowledging awareness of your thoughts and actions. For me, I find a greater sense of mindfulness when I drive my car and belt out Broadway ballads, when I walk, or indeed when I sit home in sweatpants practicing kalsarikannit — more than I would in yoga or a massage.
The five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), all score far higher than the US in happiness, according to World Happiness Report. Finland has secured the number one spot, with the Nordic countries rounding out the top six, and the US coming in 18th position.
Whilst a large portion of the world gathers indoors during the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps we should continue to look to the happiest countries in the world for tips on how to be kind to ourselves and recreate warmth in both our heart and homes.