Hygge (pronounced “hue-gah”). You may have seen this Danish word being featured heavily over the past few months, with Hygge books being released on how to achieve the hyggelig (the adjective of hygge) lifestyle. Hygge is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. It has no direct translation in English, but it is said to be related to the English word “hug”.
In Denmark, hygge is a way of life. It’s the Nordic answer to joie de vivre. In 2016, the Danes were ranked as the happiest people in the world by the World Happiness report. Why ? It might have something to do with Denmark having one of the world’s narrowest wealth gaps, access to free healthcare and education, social security, at least a month of holidays a year, all that and high minimum wages. However, a key ingredient to the Danes happiness is the strong support networks of family and friends created by hygge. Hygge is an attitude to life that engenders close personal relationships, thereby creating the support networks needed in times of hardship.
Hygge is a rather abstract abstract concept as many things can be considered “cosy”. However, in it’s truest expression, it’s about joining with loved ones in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. For example, a cosy time with friends and family, often with coffee, cake, or a warm drink in the presence of candlelight or a warm fireplace. It is also possible to hygge alone, being wrapped in a warm blanket, a warm mug of tea and a good book. This side of hygge is about being kind to yourself, indulging, having a good time, and not denying yourself anything. Author, Meik Wiking offers a good explanation in The Little Book of Hygge . He believes it’s “togetherness, relaxation, indulgence, presence and comfort. It all boils down to the pursuit of everyday happiness – the art of creating intimacy and cocoa by candlelight….. building a little pleasure and gratitude into your daily routine.
So how does one live the hygge lifestyle ?
- Make your home a hygge home. Hygge is increasingly used as inspiration for snug and cosy, very Instagram-able interiors. Hygge experts suggest candlelit rooms, scented candles, aromatherapy scents, soft furnishings for comfort, such as blankets and duvets and arranging furniture to encourage socialising with friends and family.
- Dress Hygge. Invest in cosy loungewear or cosy loose clothing that allows you to feel relaxed and comfortable in your home.
- Live Hygge. Think simplicity, spending time on activities that matter most to you, and organising cosy evenings with close friends and family accompanied by warm drinks, comfort food and again, candlelight. Even something simple like warming your pants on a radiator on the winter.
- Danes do “cosy. like no other nation. Your average home will look like something out of an ideal home supplement: lots of natural materials like wood and leather, lamps artfully positioned to create soothing pools of light.
Danish translator ToveMaren Stakkestad has written “Hygge was never meant to be translated. It was meant to be felt,” . Maybe the only way to understand this heartwarming cultural idea is to visit Denmark, rather than read about it. My most hygge experience to date was probably watching the sun set from the Blue Lagoon , Iceland whilst sipping hot cocoa. But it needn’t be anything quite so dramatic. I generally light a candle at my home office desk while I’m working and that does it for me every time. Happy Hyggeing.