The Danish concept of Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) became something of a global phenomenon a couple of years back with the publication of a number of books on the subject.
This lead it to become a leading trend in the interiors world for the autumn and winter seasons. And now, as with most trends, interest has moved on and Hygge is like so 2016…
Except in Denmark, hygge is not merely a concept — trendy or otherwise. It is a way of life that contributes to Danes consistently ranking in the top three happiest folks on the planet.
For the rest of us, trying to understand what hygge is exactly, it was explained as a feeling of cosiness and contentment. And it was portrayed through images of candles, blankets and mugs of hot tea and cocoa. Which led to many an outcry that we were all doing hygge already — we just didn’t have this fancy-ass name for it.
But actually, there’s more to hygge than having a cosy night in with family or friends — although that certainly counts as a hyggelig (hyyge-like) activity. In Denmark, hygge is a year-round practice and not just a means of getting through the cold, dark winter (although it does help to promote wellbeing during the harsher seasons).
Integrating true hygge into our own daily lives would help us all to reach Danish levels of happiness and wellbeing — and all that requires is slowing down and appreciating the simple things in life.
Hygge is about consciousness, being present, being grateful and deliberately making the most of life’s simple pleasures.
Those pleasures include getting together with friends and family, whether in front of a roaring fire or in the midst of nature. They include appreciating good food, whether alone or in company. They include all the cosy elements that Instagram taught us to associate with the term hygge, such as candles, blankets and delicious, hot beverages on cold wintry evenings.
Any activity where we consciously inject and appreciate intimacy, comfort and contentment can lead to increased wellbeing, so all of these activities count.
Hygge also includes daily rituals — 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.
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 consciouslyappreciate 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 hyggelig — 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.
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 true Hygge goes deeper. It’s about being appreciative of what’s good in the moment, and making the moment as good as it can be. And it can be experienced in the great outdoors, not just in cosy indoor spaces.
So, instead of hibernating all winter, dress for the weather and get outdoors 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 in spring and summertime, practice even more hyggelig activities outdoors. Instead of board-games in front of the fire, have picnics in the park or barbecues in the back garden.
Hygge is a feeling of contentment and wellbeing. 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.
Embrace more and more of life’s simple pleasures and practice them regularly. No matter what you call it, embrace the hyggelig way of living simply to the fullest.
First published on Medium.