Pronounced “hoo-ga”, hygge is a Danish lifestyle concept that centres on coziness and enjoying the little things in life. It could be as small as reading a good book on a rainy day or sipping a hot chocolate by the fire. The feelings created by these little pleasures is essentially what hygge is.
Meik Wiking, the CEO of Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, says that hygge is “a defining feature of our cultural identity and an integral part of the national DNA. In other words, what freedom is to Americans, hygge is to Danes.” This comes from his new book, The Little Book of Hygge. This concept of hygge is widely accredited to the country’s high happiness levels.
However, hygge doesn’t involve having to buy lots of new things, learning “how to” do it, or adopting it as a lifestyle according to the Hygge House website. “You can’t buy a ‘hygge living room’ and there are no ‘hygge foods’ to eat.” Hygge is really just a feeling, the ability to be present and to take time doing the simple, pleasurable things.
Perhaps the Scandinavian lifestyle makes them better equipped to appreciate the little things as they have all the big things down to a T: free university, universal health care, effective infrastructure, paid family leave, amazing maternity care, and social security. Wiking says that once all these necessities secured, Danes are able to become “aware of the decoupling between wealth and wellbeing.” He told Elle UK that once “our basic needs are met, more money doesn’t lead to more happiness.”
So what exactly is important in creating a feeling of hygge?
Get the right lighting
Making sure that during the day you have as much natural light as possible, but at night ensuring you wind down the brightness by using lamps, fairy lights, candles or a fire to create a darker, cozier atmosphere. Bright lights, especially those from phones and TVs, can be damaging in the evening as they affect your circadian rhythm.
Being social with friends and family
Spending quality time with your loved ones is a great part of hygge. Inviting friends round for a home cooked meal, or to watch a movie together is a great way to create a hygge atmosphere.
Taking part in the ‘slow food’ movement
Spending time to cook or bake something with great care, alone or with a friend, can be very relaxing and nourishing. In the colder months, stews and fresh bread are the perfect hygge inducing meal.
Spend time in nature
Besides from being good for your physical health, spending quality time outside in nature is a good way to create a sense of hygge. Walks in the forest with friends can be a great way to socialise too. If it is summer, planning an outdoor picnic is best.
Savour your hot drinks
Making good quality coffee, tea or hot chocolate, and taking the time to prepare it just the way you like it is the first step. Being aware of what you’re drinking and how good it tastes is a hygge concept that makes you connect to the present moment and can be very soothing in a stressful situation. It’s much better than throwing back an average americano in a busy chain cafe.
Wrapping up warm in autumn and winter is a sure fire way to feel hygge. Your best pyjamas, thick socks, big blankets, and soft cushions are the way to go.
Do arts and crafts
Whether you take the time to do a DIY around the house like painting an old cabinet a new colour, drawing and painting, or something more tactile like knitting and crochet, the act of making something has great hygge benefits. This is a great one around the holiday season as you can spend time drinking mulled wine by the fire and making cards or a wreath.
Make sure everything smells lovely
Using scents from candles, good laundry detergent, essential oils or incense can all create a hygge vibe and it makes spending time in a space more enjoyable if it smells good!
Have a tech-free hour
Making sure to spend a part of each day without your phone, tablet or TV screen is very beneficial for many reasons but is a great way to unwind your mind and allows you to spend more time with family and friends.
While all these little things may seem trivial, doing a few every day might help to cheer you up and fight the seasonal blues in the winter months. To find out more about hygge check out the beautiful blog Hello Hygge and the book by Helen Russell The Year of Living Danishly.