Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) in essence is the Scandinavian concept of being cozy. It originated in Denmark generations ago, and is described as the feeling of being comfy. In practice, hygge is a set of guidelines for living simply, and with grace. It encourages us to slow down, to take the time to seek out or create a quiet space, and to share that space with loving friends and family.
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In 2016 Denmark was named the happiest country in the world, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway, while Canadians ranked #6, and the United States #13 (read the 2017 World Happiness Report).
So what’s their secret? Why are Scandinavian countries leading the world in overall happiness? I believe it’s because they practice hygge.
I first heard about hygge just a few months ago and became instantly enamoured. After a little research I came up with a book that, once I started to read it, I couldn’t put down! The book is called The Hygge Life: Embracing the Nordic Art of Coziness Through Recipes, Entertaining, Decorating, Simple Rituals and Family Traditions by Gunnar Karl Gislason & Jody Eddy. The Hygge Life tells the story of how hygge came to be, how it has evolved, and includes everything you need to start your own hygge practice.
Here’s what I’ve learned
Hygge began as a means of whiling away the long, dark winter months, and has grown into a year-round practice of grace, simplicity, and being grateful for what we have. It focuses on outdoor activities in the summertime just as much as indoor activities during the winter months. In the winter people gather with friends and family to share comfort food and a good story by the fire. In summertime, people get outside to enjoy hikes and BBQs under the midnight sun.
Hygge is not only meant for our personal spaces, but for our work spaces, too. It’s important to create a comfortable environment where meaningful work can be done, and to share values of respect and kindness with our colleagues. And for goodness sake, get out and enjoy a coffee! In Finland the coffee break (called the fika) is a huge part of work culture.
“But it’s more than a courageous heart and thick woollen socks that see Scandinavians joyfully through the dark, bleak season. Their spirits are enriched and hearts made buoyant by the concept of hygge. It’s their winter elixir. It’s the notion that taking care of yourself and those you love fortifies you with an invincible sense of well-being that no amount of snow or endless twilight can temper.”
~ The Hygge Life
To help you get started on your hygge practice, I’ve listed some ideas below. Some of these I’ve borrowed from The Hygge Life, and others I was happy to discover were already a part of my life!
Create a Cozy Space
Create a spa-like atmosphere in your home (use soft lighting, add throws and pillows, burn scented oils, etc.)
Create a hygge reading corner in your home (transform a utilitarian space to something warm and inviting)
Create a Cozy Environment
Schedule a brunch with friends (the hygge way to do this is to prepare the meal in advance, so that you spend more time enjoying the company of others)
Take a coffee break with a colleague
Organize a book club
Fill Your Heart
Focus on relationships with yourself and others rather than on owning “stuff”
Make a hygge date with your spouse (light some candles and enjoy a simple meal)
Host a hygge gathering (keep it small and cozy; light some candles, play soft music. skip the cocktail dresses and wear warm socks and chunky sweaters instead)
Have a bonfire
Go camping in the fall
Plan a winter picnic
Take a walk with friends and then have them over for a cup of homemade hot chocolate
Live With Grace
Adopt a gratitude practice
Celebrate your traditions! (at my house we have pumpkin soup on Halloween, mussel soup on Christmas Eve, we gather with friends to celebrate the Winter and Summer Solstices…)
Another part of the hygge tradition that I love is the giving of the host parting gift. These gifts are simple, and yet powerful in their nature: it’s gifting something homemade, like jam or preserves and fresh baked bread, or a book you hope that will inspire your guest, wrapped up in brown paper with a handwritten note.
So! After learning a bit about hygge it’s no surprise that the Danish are the happiest people in the world. The very fabric of their culture is woven with guidelines for living that ensure the close-knit bonds between friends and family are nurtured with quiet gatherings, gratitude practices, comfort food, and calming spaces.
Thank you so much for reading! I look forward to hearing about what you are doing to start your own hygge practice.For more ideas on how to build closer bonds with family and the friends that you already have, download my free e-book called The Door Is Always Open. In it I’ve shared tips for fun and easy ways to bring friends and family together on the regular, helping you to Create Your Own Hygge Life!
Hygge Hot Chocolate
Heat up milk (don’t boil!), then whisk in other ingredients and top with whipped cream
4 cups whole milk
10 oz or higher cacao/chocolate
3 T unsalted butter
Pinch of salt