In 2017, the word hygge was considered as one of the most popular new words to enter the Oxford Dictionary. Since then, the interest in the concept of hygge home and hygge lifestyle has exploded here in the USA and I see it as a very good development.
What is hygge?
The word comes originally from Norwegian, but it has become predominantly associated with Danish culture. Hygge is not easy to translate and not easy to pronounce. The word’s pronunciation has been debated fiercely among its fans, but according to Danish themselves, Hygge should be pronounced as ‘hyoo-guh’. The word describes feelings, emotions, and practices such as coziness, happiness, feeling safe and secure, being content, being surrounded by love and loved ones, a sense of comfort and familiarity, the kinship with others and one’s surroundings.
A word in German, Gemütlichkeit, with similar connotations of cozy, homey, and familiar does not have a simple translation into English either. I see it as an interesting fact that we do not have a corresponding one-word concept here. All the more reason to get informed about this important, life-enriching practice and start implementing it little by little into our reality.
We don’t hygge to be content, we find contentment in hygge. Hygge is… about pleasure, presence and participation. It’s… the understanding that if we are to wholeheartedly participate in life, we are entitled to small islands of calm.Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well
How can Hygge improve our lives?
I find it quite astonishing that Danish doctors apparently recommend “tea and hygge” as a cure for the common cold. While hygge won’t cure us of viral infections, it might be still a helpful complementary touch of medicine for our harsh times.
It is getting cold outside, winter is coming (not a GOT meme). Add to it, the current state of affairs globally, with a raging pandemic and economic instability, and the outlook might seem very bleak to many of us. Both as individuals and societies, we are undoubtedly facing many challenges that can be detrimental to our sense of social and emotional wellbeing.
With social distancing in place, and in the age of zoom schooling and work, we are becoming ever more distanced from one another and our surroundings. As we hunker down at home, our sense of belonging to a community – be it a neighborhood, a city, or even the country – is waning.
With Hygge we might be able to reclaim a bit of the sense of togetherness with smaller gatherings in cozy, intimate settings that will make us feel more connected and intimate with each other.
You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.Miek Wiking, The Little Book Of Hygge: Danish Secrets To Happy Living
There is a lot of hype about hygge these days and some people try to capitalize on this popularity. However, it is crucial to remember that one cannot buy a cozy atmosphere or a sense of belonging and togetherness. A 100$ blanket won’t create a hygge feeling, nor will a 50$ candle make you feel like you’ve arrived at the coziest of places.
Hygge is about having less, enjoying more; the pleasure of simply being.Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well
It is generous and celebratory, a way to remember the importance of the simple act of living itself.
One will not be able to hygge even with best accessories if one stays stressed out, distracted by electronics, or in a hurry to complete an errand. To create that perfect cozy sense of intimate connection, you need to invest in the moment. Relax, enjoy, don’t stress out about time and obligations. Only then can you really feely hygge around you, no matter if you are by yourself or with a group of loved family members or friends.
How to create a hygge home
The idea of hygge start with a cozy home. It is here where we can feel the most secure, safe, in touch with ourselves and open to those we share this space. As we know, a house is not always a home. A house becomes a home only when there is love and sense of belonging and togetherness in it.
We still carry within us, in a small warm spot, the idea of home. Home as a safe place, a loving place and a creative place. Place of comfort and privacy. Place where we can explore our inner life.Ilsa Crawford
To add to that sense of coziness and comfort, we might have to alter our house décor a bit and invest in more appropriate hygge décor. Especially now, when it is getting colder outside, some added touches can do wonders to bring that sense of warmth and comfort to a home.
Opt for plush, cozy, warm textures and fabrics. A leather sofa might look nice and expensive, but it doesn’t scream “coziness” to me. I would feel much cozier on a comfortable plush sofa or an old armchair, covered in a warm blanket, reading a book, and sipping some hot tea or cocoa.
Neutrals, nudes, and earth tones seem to impart more of that cozy feeling than neon or bright primary colors. It doesn’t mean that everything in the interior has to be white or beige, how boring would that be! Instead, I would opt for a natural palette and harmonizing colors. Something pleasant to the eye, soothing rather than calling attention to itself.
Hygge lightning might be one of the most important aids when it comes to bringing about that sense of charm and comfort. Overhead light won’t do. Side lamps and string lights, dimmer rather than bright will do the trick. Even better, invest in a few good-quality, non-toxic candles (important not to get cheap ones that might emit harmful particles into the air). There is nothing more comforting and homey than soft candlelight.
You can get a scented candle, but again, please make sure that it is scented with natural oils rather than synthetic fragrances. Even better, get a diffuser (sonic, water-based diffuser or a passive, ceramic diffuser are fine), and discover some amazing essential oils and/or blends to help achieve that sense of homey comfort and relaxation. There are so many wonderful fall, winter and holiday blends to choose from (affiliate links): Apple Pie, Holiday Season, Spiced Cider, Candy Cane, and many more.
Just living isn’t enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”Hans Christian Andersen
Hygge for family
At the heart of hygge is a willingness to set aside time for simply being with people, and, ideally, having all the time in the world for them. Hygge is a vehicle for showing that we care. It’s a way of paying attention to our children or partners and friends in the messy reality of the here and now, and putting down the distractions that pull us in different directions.Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well
My family is probably not much different from many out there. There are four of us, three with our own cell phones, the fourth and youngest one doesn’t own one but freely uses any phone that he can put his hands on. We are all attached to phones, computers, and other devices. Sometimes, our work requires it. Other times, our social obligations make us think that it’s required to answer every email, every text, every mention on social media platforms. Still other times, we are addicted to the screen, plain and simple, and forget to socialize with real people around us.
When introducing hygge, we can commit to more balance between actual interaction with those around us and the connectivity to those beyond our house’s walls. With hygge, we can reclaim our commitment to real interaction, to meaningful conversation, to cuddles, and to intimacy. Hygge is the Danish answer to the Eastern concept of Zen. Living in the moment and for the moment, enjoying the fleeting beauty of the small things, and living in gratitude and contentment.
The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.Ludwig Wittgenstein
Here are some idea to bring more hygge to everyday family life:
It can start with cooking together, setting a nice table, eating together, conversing during the meal, and cleaning up together. No phones, no screens. After a while, the commitment turns into a new habit and everyone is all the happier for it.
Bake some bread
There is nothing more homey to me than the smell of freshly baked bread. I’ve been baking my own bread for a long while, partially because I miss European bread and the sourdough bread I bake comes much closer to the rye/wheat loaves I know from my childhood than anything I can buy in a store.
Another reason is the fact that bread baking is just so cozy and special. The whole process takes two days but the active work is only about one hour at the most. And the rewards are amazing. What could be more hygge than a slice of freshly baked bread with melting butter or homemade jam to accompany a nice cup of coffee or a pot of tea?
Speaking of tea, establish small rituals like a cozy teatime for two or the entire family. Spend time preparing the tea, maybe learn how to make it from scratch, rather than just dipping a tea bag in boiling water. Try a mini matcha ceremony or make delicious hot cocoa for everyone. Bake some cookies to go with it. Sharing meals and small pleasures in life create a sense of togetherness and comfort with one another.
Cozy game time
I already wrote about some ideas for family fun during the pandemic lockdowns, but family game time is truly an old favorite. Very small time and financial investment with huge rewards for everyone. Gather everyone around the table, put on some warm socks, use cozy blankets if it’s cold, and enjoy every minute of it.
The secret to hygge lies in paying attention to the rhythm of our daily lives, the people we choose to spend time with, the things we use and the activities we undertake that give life value and meaning.Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well
It is also fun to incorporate hygge into self-care and self-love rituals. Hygge is not always about connection with others, it can also mean reconnecting with oneself. Taking time to really relax. Opening the eyes to one’s surroundings. Doing something that really brings you joy and happiness.
For me personally, there is nothing more comforting that taking an evening bath with some herbs and dried flower petals and essential oils in the bathtub, and a few candles all around the bathroom. Maybe some soft music playing or not. Just a peaceful, simple, pure being in the moment.
Occasionally, we can give our bodies more attention by creating a spa night at home. I wrote a complete post about it, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say that spa treatments can be super cozy, chilling, and relaxing. Just what a hygge doctor would order.
I find gratitude practice to be one of the best forms of de-stressing and re-focusing when in despair or overwhelmed. It is another one of these practices, like meditation, that might seem clumsy and forced in the beginning, but once you start doing it, they become a habit and almost an addiction. Focussing on gratefulness brings us back to the small things in life, lets us appreciate our loved ones more, allows us to reconnect with them and with ourselves. Sounds like hygge right?
I have always been an avid reader. I believe that I love books not only for the fact that they open all these different worlds and characters to me, places I would never be able to visit, and people I can feel intimate with without ever knowing them in person.
Another aspect of reading that I love is the entire ritual of it. The feeling and sound of the paper when I turn the page, the unique scent of an older book, the warmth of the blanket over my body when I curl up on the chair, sofa, or bed to read with a steaming hot beverage next to me. All of this is hygge and a reason why our house is filled with books and we have not bought any of the electronic readers and most likely never will.
Hygge draws meaning from the fabric of ordinary living. It’s a way of acknowledging the sacred in the secular, of giving something ordinary a special context, spirit and warmth and taking time to make it extraordinary.Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well
Hygge at workplace
It’s possible to bring hygge décor into the workplace too.
- When I am at my office, I avoid the harsh overhead light and instead turn on a side lamp.
- I usually have a candle burning somewhere nearby and a diffuser with a cozy aroma to welcome my students and visitors.
- Tea is a constant companion and an occasion to spend some quality time with my colleagues.
Will you incorporate some hygge into your life?
I hope these ideas are convincing enough to include some of the Danish lifestyle of hygge into your busy life. It might not seem so obvious but even small changes to the way we socialize and interact with one another, as well as how we relax and provide this sense of comfort to ourselves, are fundamental for our health and wellbeing. Good quality of social experiences can contribute to the quality of our happiness, mental wellness, and can even influence our physical well-being.
While the constant rush to achieve more, to own better and more stuff, to amass wealth are understandable to a certain degree (life is expensive, especially in Western societies). This drive, though, can leave us blind to the innermost needs of social connection and self-contentment.
Introducing a bit of hygge to our homes and our life might just do the trick. A little coziness never hurt anyone, and it most likely cured many.
Below are a few items that might start you on the journey toward more hygge in your home. These are affiliate links. If you click on any and purchase the product I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you.
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FOCUS Tea Gift Set – Complete Matcha Gift Set with 2 Bowls and Choice of Tea
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