In this article, we will share what hygge is and how to cultivate it in your life, sans the marketing fluff.
We are grateful to have spent some time in Scandinavian countries and introduced to the hygge way of being and living. After which, we spent many hours researching and understanding what hygge means and incorporated it into our daily lives and surroundings.
In a time where we are bombarded with TMI (too much information) and an intense pace of life, it is vital for us to refresh and recalibrate. Enter hygge, a defining characteristic of Danish culture, which has been gaining credence in the United States and United Kingdom.
Take it from the Danes to know how to be the happiest people on Earth. They must be doing something right to be crowned this desired state consistently.
Keep reading to explore what it means to live a more hyggelig life:
Origins of hygge
Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word roughly translated into ‘coziness’. The term didn’t originate in Danish Dansk but in old Norwegian Norse language, where it referred to “well-being ” or “protected from the outside world”. The modern definition took on its form in the early 1800s and has since enveloped Danish culture.
It has many names – “the art of creating intimacy”, ”taking pleasure from soothing things”, “cocoa by moonlight”. Oxford defines hygge as ‘a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.’
Much of hygge in popular culture is about curling around a fire in winter months with soft throws, warm blankets and hot chocolate. Great marketing yes, but hygge is neither a style or trend.
Simply put, hygge relates to a concept of fostering well being and contented living. It is all about being in the moment and acknowledging a feeling of togetherness and centeredness; of feeling relaxed and grateful; safe and soothed. You can even call it a state of mind, or a way of living.
These experiences could happen anywhere, everywhere, anytime, sometimes. It could happen alone or in the presence of others, in your environments (at home, work or outdoors), or in your activities (work, play, rest) . Hygge could happen naturally or be cultivated with people and your surroundings..
How to hygge
Before we start sounding like an ultra-woke hippie who reached epiphany in a sauna, let’s break hygge down into practical aspects.
In the quintessential ‘The Little Book of Hygge’, Meik Weigling describes 6 ways (or senses) we can experience hygge in a tangible manner.
Hygge leaves a taste that is always familiar, sweet, and comforting. Whether it is in a cake that we eat, or some honey in the drink, or a dinner with friends, it involves not only the act of eating but in the activities around eating. This brings about a sense of togetherness, and reinforces our basic need for connection. So feast away, especially with friends and loved ones, with lagom limits of course..
We all know the way sound, or the absence of it, tunes us and our emotions . Whether in the calming flow of water down a stream, spirited away by your music, or being at home dry whilst listening to the pitter patter of rain on the window, it delights the soul of our being and reminds us of the need for a safe space. Sound sets the mood and tone of any situation – to invigorate, moderate or ease. Cue Barry White..bow chicka wow wow.
Like sound, smell seems to have the ability to capture and invoke all our primal emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, security, fears. Past experiences are conjured at a whiff of a scent – the aroma of baked bread reminding us of mama’s kitchen, the fragrance of mimosa permeating through the home provoking memories of a holiday. Smell is also known to reduce stress and lift moods, such as taking a walk through pine-filled forests or the use of aromatherapy and essential oils in massage. It alerts us to our surroundings and guides us in deciding the level of comfort we should be in.
There is nothing more stimulating than the touch of your skin in contact with something. The effect is immediate and your body responds instinctively. Think of the feel of running your fingers through soft wool, water splashed across your face on a hot day or a nice tight hug. No matter the time of day or season, our bodies attune kinesthetically. As such, inducing a hyggelig experience could involve creating an environment where we feel calm and assured to the touch. For example, painting a smooth slap-brush textured wall or using rough reclaimed wood as a wall feature in the home, or being soothed by the soft rubbing of a faux fur rug.
Nothing sets the mood and tone more than light and color. Hygge is all about using natural, warm hues to soften a look or space. Whether in decorating a room or in the clothes we choose on the daily, light and color can shift our moods. As we engage in our choices and surroundings, it forces us to slow our time down and be mindful of our sentiments. Additionally, the use of colors doesn’t have to be complex, the simpler the more pleasurable. For instance, 3 matching colors for a room. Less is more.
The most critical (and often overlooked) aspect of hygge is to FEEL. You can’t buy ‘hygge-like’ objects or be in a rush and expect to be feeling ‘hyggelig’. It’s more about creating an atmosphere and taking the time to appreciate these experiences. This includes everything from feeling a sense of family with the people you hang with, how your home feels comforting and secure, to something simple as the food you enjoy eating over your lunch break.
When to hygge
The good news is that hygge is not restricted to Christmas! As you would have figured by now, hygge is about being in the moment and a state of fulfillment. Hygge happens in all seasons and anywhere. And with each season comes very different colors, moods, opportunities and experiences. Talk about a differentiated hygge feeling all year round!
What to do next?
In short, hygge is about embracing what makes your life special and enjoyable. It doesn’t have to cost much or take up a lot of energy. So take time to find, build and protect the “coziness of your soul”.