Growing in popularity in the United States over the past year, 8220;hygge8221; is a Danish word with no direct English translation. I’ve heard it pronounced HOO-GA and HUE-GA. Hygge encapsulates a feeling of warmth, coziness, contentment, well-being and connection. It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It connotes taking pleasure in simplicity, savoring life, and a way of living that’s more about being than having.
According to recent studies, the people of Denmark are the happiest in the world. And Americans, this one included, want in. Personally, I’m not gonna pull up roots in Washington and move halfway across the world. But I do have a library card and I’ve been reading up on how Danish people live and figuring out ways to incorporate more hygge into my life.
When I woke up yesterday, I could see my breath. Winter is coming. And it always sends a shiver of joy down my spine when I can feel it in the air. It might just be my Canadian upbringing, but I LOVE winter. And I live near Seattle, home to one of the grayest, wettest winters around. To me, winter isn’t about the dark and the cold. It’s about the light in my home and warmth of my fire in contrast to the dark and cold outside.
When the weather is foulest, the respite of my little corner of the world is sweetest. So, when first read about hygge, it resonated with me. One of the cornerstones of hygge is contrast. The inner versus the outer world. Warmth versus cold. Light versus shadow. Relaxation versus work. In that contrast, and the ability to find joy in it, we experience hygge.
Hygge is taking pleasure in the simple aspects of your life. It’s about being present and connecting to your world and the people in it. It’s not easy to explain but you know it when you experience it. And I believe we can all add more hygge into our lives with little shifts in intention.
In the colder months, we get a little more snuggly. My kids climb onto the couch with me when I’m reading or Dan and I go back to bed for half an hour to curl up under the warm covers and snooze next to each other. Take the time to snuggle. Maybe this means getting up 10 minutes early so you have time to slow down and be together. Try keeping a cozy blanket draped over the arm of the couch to wrap around you and your child as you plan the day.
We spend so much time thinking about the look of our homes. How often do we focus on the feel? Do the furnishings, rugs, and accents in your home give off a feeling warmth and coziness? Try adding a soft blanket or plush pillow to your seating area. Next time you purchase furniture, think about the feeling the pieces invoke. Do they match the feeling you want for your home?
This one is actually the answer to everything. I truly feel I could copy and paste this bullet into any post I’ve ever written about anything. There is no connection to people when we are connected to devices. When you’re dining, speaking, even just being together, turn off the phone and turn on your relationships with human people. Consider having a basket for devices. When you’re ready to hygge, fill the basket.
Whether it’s muffins baking in the oven, essential oils diffusing, or spices simmering on the stove, make your home smell warm and inviting. When my mom was young, my grandma would sometimes sautee onions on the stove just to make the house smell like delicious food was on its way. Try simmering 6 cups of water, one sliced orange, 5-10 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks and a bay leaf to give your home a warm and spicy scent.
Candles aren’t just for holidays or romantic interludes. You can hygge when you light a candle just because. I like to light them in the afternoon as the kids are getting home from school or in the evening as we’re winding down towards bedtime. Twinkle lights also get the job done nicely, setting the mood for contentment and coziness.
Prepare and Share Comforting Food and Drink
Simple and nourishing food always fills my soul with a sense of well-being. It should be shared. When a friend stops by to say hello or pick up the soccer cleats she’s borrowing, invite her in for a cup of tea or a muffin. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Even offering a visitor a glass of water can be hygge. It’s the warmth and welcoming behind the gesture that make the difference.
Walking my daughter home from school can be hygge as we crunch the leaves, hold hands, and really listen to each other. You can infuse this feeling into any moment when you give it your intention and focus.
One way to bring a greater sense of well-being into your life is to find beauty in nature in every season and reflect that in your home in simple ways. Put a potted plant on your end table or fill a vase with curvy willow branches.
This one may seem silly. Of course you want your clothes to be comfortable, but sometimes we sacrifice comfort for style. I’m not saying sweat pants can buy happiness but they sure can sooth a foul mood.
The best are clothes that look great but also feel amazing. What attractive clothes do you have that also make you feel warm and cozy? Is there a cardigan or scarf that fits the bill? This winter, wear clothes that are easy to wear, that feel natural to you, and add to your sense of warmth and comfort.
How Do You Hygge?
There are a million more ways to do this. Taking time to be with friends. Savoring a good book. Spending time in nature. Drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate, reading a story by the fire, slipping on a warm toque before going outdoors.
Look around your life. What simple pleasures and routines do you engage in regularly? Thinking about them, savoring them, and executing them with a sense of ritual and purpose can make your everyday extraordinary.
For more ideas, check out The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell, The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, or The Cozy life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge.
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