Broadly speaking, the Danish concept of Hygge is the creation of a feeling of cosiness and contentment. Typically, it is portrayed on social media through images of candles, blankets, and mugs of hot tea and cocoa. Anything that brings us comfort is hygge-lig. And really, the Danes weren’t the only ones practicing this.
What is different in Denmark though, is that Hygge is a year-round way of life that cares nothing about Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. And the Danes consistently rank in studies at the happiest end of the scale, so it’s not something to dismiss lightly. To them, Hygge runs deeper than the cosy-making images portray.
How can we gain this deeper benefit for ourselves?
The answer is, by regarding it as an important self-care practice – and practicing it on an ongoing basis (not just in the darker, colder seasons).
By being conscious, mindful, and intentional…not just lighting a candle to take a pic for Instagram. Instead, lighting a candle as a deliberate part of a self-care ritual, whereby we intentionally take some time for a self-nourishing activity. And actually, lighting a candle is purely optional.
Our hygge-lig activity might be reading a book by the fire, curled up in a cosy blanket. Equally, it can be cooking a meal for ourselves, family or friends…if it is done as an act of love, as opposed to being viewed as a necessary chore.
Not just having a cup of cocoa, but actively appreciating the cocoa. Reframing the messy business of cleaning out and setting the fire, to view it as part of a ritual leading to a cosy evening enjoying the heat and atmosphere it will generate.
Hygge is about consciousness, being present, being grateful, and deliberately making the most of life’s simple pleasures.
We will get the most out of Hygge when we apply deliberate and mindful intention behind the cosy-making. When we slow down and find a way to appreciate the little everyday things.
Hygge is about incorporating daily rituals into our mundane everyday. And they can be as simple as taking the time to sit and enjoy our morning tea or coffee, instead of gulping it down as we race about getting ready to leave for work.
It includes all the cosy elements that Instagram taught us to associate with the term, such as candles, blankets, and delicious, hot beverages on cold wintry evenings. But it also includes any activity where we consciously inject and appreciate intimacy, comfort, and contentment.
We don’t have to go out and buy new cushions and throws and create a Pinterest or Instagram-worthy living room. We simply need to consciously appreciate the comfort of our living rooms instead of vegging out in an unconscious manner.
Choosing to curl up with a book and a hot toddy, instead of flicking mindlessly through trashy TV channels. Although watching TV can also be hygge-lig , when we’re actively engaged with and enjoying what we’re watching, as opposed to merely distracting ourselves from whatever is going on in our lives.
Be present in everything we’re doing.
If you’re having a night in, light a candle, get as cosy as possible, and appreciate the experience. If you’re cooking a meal, consciously infuse the food you’re preparing with love. Take time every day to slow down and do at least one thing with conscious care.
In autumn and winter, it certainly helps to make our homes all comfy and cosy – it softens the harshness of the weather. And the harsh weather also provides an excuse to enjoy cosy, intimate evenings with family, friends, or even alone.
But what’s most important is to appreciate what’s good in the moment, and to make the moment as good as it can be.
Hygge can also be experienced in the great outdoors, not just in cosy indoor spaces. So, instead of hibernating all winter, dress for the weather and get outside and embrace it. Long walks in nature, especially in the company of loved ones – be they human or furry – are great for the soul.
And when spring and summertime roll around again, practice even more hyggelig activities outdoors. Instead of board games in front of the fire, have picnics in the park. Make your back garden as inviting as possible and regularly take time out to enjoy it.
Fundamentally, Hygge is a feeling of contentment and well-being. We don’t need to use the term in our day-to-day life (unless we live in Denmark), but it really is of benefit to incorporate rituals and experiences into our daily lives that generate that hyggelig feeling.
So, to benefit from the Dane’s wise practice, embrace more and more of life’s simple pleasures and practice them regularly. Integrating true Hygge into our own daily lives would help us all to improve our happiness and wellbeing.