Think about the last time you were wrapped in a blanket drinking a cup of hot cocoa as a snowstorm rages on outside. Or cuddling on the sofa with a loved one as you watched the latest blockbuster. Or the joy of having a summer-time barbecue with your friends. What do these have in common? How do these things make you feel? The Danish would call these things hygge.
Hygge is a concept deeply rooted deep in Danish culture. It’s hard to give it a direct translation but a popular one is ‘cozy’. It’s more about a feeling or atmosphere than anything in particular. To be hygge or hyggelig (hygge-like), it’s about creating comfort and safety. There’s often a togetherness aspect of spending time with family and close friends. Enjoying coffee together, eating a meal and having conversations, playing games, all these things are considered hygge. Hygge is often thought of as candles, cozy sweaters, and fuzzy socks – and it is (per person Denmark uses the most candles compared to any other nation) – but it is so much more and it is what each person makes it to be. Popular hyggelig activities include cooking together and enjoying the meal, making homemade sweets or treats to share with friends, or even watching a movie at someone’s house. Anything that creates togetherness or homeyness. While hygge often centers around creating intimacy with others but it can also be enjoyed alone. Enjoy a book with coffee, sit outside with the sun warming your face, or whip up your favorite comfort food. Whatever lets you feel grounded, connected, comforted, and safe – that is hygge.
The Danes have been developing hygge since the 18th century when the word first appeared. It is thought that it may have come from the Norwegian word hugga which means, “to comfort” and where the English word “hug” is derived from. This concept of coziness and self-kindness envelopes their way of life. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that they consistently rank as one of the happiest countries in the world.
What’s important is that hygge isn’t a new set of rules to add to your life. It’s really about giving yourself a break. So to start, put the phone down and slow down for a second. A huge part of hygge is not just being present but appreciating and living in the moment. Enjoy a cup of coffee with friends or a co-worker. Have a slice of cake or that piece of chocolate. Drink tea while reading a book in a comforting corner. A hygge life is about little indulgences that let you escape from the busy day or stress, not bingeing or being gluttonous. Balance.
While indulging in that extra sweet or taking comfort in curling up makes hygge seem like an indoor activity it works outside as well. The Scandinavian countries experience a lot of darkness during the winter months and the weather isn’t always pleasant but that doesn’t stop them from getting outside or exercising. They don’t believe in bad weather, just unsuitable clothes. Partaking in outdoor activities that you enjoy is also hygge, especially if you do it with friends or family. Walk the dog, play games while waiting for the barbecue, enjoy a picnic. At this point I’m sure you’ve noticed the trend, almost anything can be hyggelig and it isn’t confined to a particular definition. You can enjoy it indoors or outdoors and it is all year round.
Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge and the CEO at The Happiness Research Institute, sums it all up really well in this VICE Interview:
The art of coziness that is hygge has been gaining popularity in the last few years around the world. In 2016 it was the U.K.’s second most popular word (after Brexit) and that was just the beginning of its momentum. There are Pinterest boards beyond Pinterest boards about hygge and dozens of articles like this one talking about its spectacular ability to help you find happiness. But it’s important to remember that hygge is about how things make you feel not the actual things. It isn’t about spending lots of money to buy a concept of coziness. In fact, spending lots of money isn’t hygge at all. The saying, “home is where the heart is” is related to a similar essence; “coziness is when you feel comforted” could be something to keep in mind as you create your hygge journey.
What makes you happy? How can you incorporate self-kindness into your life? What is cozy to you?
Discover your hygge.