Hygge! What it means, how to practice hygge and how this Danish lifestyle can affect your mind and soul.
We will try to answer these questions here.
In the last couple of years (and particularly in the winter months), we’re sure you’ve come across a certain word: Hygge. But what in the world does hygge mean exactly? First, let’s start with how you say it.
Pronounced “hoo-ga,” this Danish concept cannot be translated to one single word but encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life.
If you’ve ever enjoyed reading a book indoors on a rainy Sunday or a cup of hot cocoa on a snow day, you’ve experienced hygge without even knowing it.
Hygge is such an important part of being Danish that it is considered “a defining feature of our cultural identity and an integral part of the national DNA,” according to Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.
“In other words, what freedom is to Americans. . . hygge is to Danes,” Wiking says in his book The Little Book Of Hygge.
This national obsession with all things cozy is credited as one of the reasons why Denmark is always at the top of the list of the world’s happiest countries, despite their infamously miserable winters.
And recently, the rest of the world has begun to catch on to this wonderful way of life.
How To Practice Hygge
Have you ever noticed how there always a candlelit garden, teamed with twinkling lights, fireflies and an open fire in romantic comedies? Well, it looks like this is a ploy by Hollywood to tap into our desire to have more ‘hygge’.
According to the European Candle Association, Danes burn more candles per head than anywhere in Europe, such is their devotion to ‘hygge’. When you go home tonight, light some candlelights, wrap yourself up in a blanket and drink a warming cup of hot chocolate.
Tebirkes (Danish poppy seed rolls) are to Denmark what pasta is to Italy. The Danes eat around 10 kilos of pastries and cakes each year and are most famed for their Danish pastry, otherwise known as ‘Wienerbrød’ so it makes sense that they’re all so happy – they’re eating pastry all day long!
A big part of ‘hygge’ is indulging in what you enjoy and never denying yourself of enjoyment. Try baking a tray of buttered dough tebirkes, covered in poppy seeds and eat your way to ‘hygge’.
Regularly voted one of the happiest countries in the world, Denmark is well-known for its devotion to bicycles.
In fact, in Copenhagen, there are more bikes than inhabitants with almost 400 kilometers of biking lanes throughout the city.
As for exercise increases levels of dopamine in your brain (the ‘happy hormone’), try spending at least 2.5hrs partaking in the aerobic exercise to raise your heart rate and enjoy some fresh air.
Start dropping the word ‘hygge’ into everyday conversation
‘I can’t come out tonight, I’m going to get some ‘hygge”
‘Er, have you seen what Rachel is wearing? She’s so ‘hygge’ at the moment.’
‘Anyone have a lighter? I want to light some candles before the party to give it that ‘hygge’ feel.’
The more you talk about ‘hygge’, the easier it’ll be to achieve it.
Wiking advises: ‘Our language shapes our behavior – and our behavior shapes our happiness. A rose by any other name may still smell as sweet – but it should have a name. Feel free to use ours – it’s is called ‘hygge’.’
The word ‘hygge’ will be your new best friend.
Don’t stay late after work
Danes and they value their family and spare time highly. This, coupled with it getting dark around 4 pm in the winter, means they love nothing more than finishing work on time and heading home to spend time with their loved ones.
Women work an average of 35 hours a week (compared to 41 hours a week for men) and employees are expected to work Monday to Friday, 8 am-4 pm.
As a result, Danes don’t appreciate working overtime or staying late to finish their work.
Adopt the Dane work ethic by working intensely during the day and clock off on time to go home and eat dinner with family and friends.
Take lunch at 11 am
Given the early morning starts, Danes usually take their lunch break around 11:00 am.
It may seem early, but given we start to get hunger pangs around mid-morning, it kind of makes sense to eat a big lunch early on during the day to provide a profitable bout of energy for the afternoon.
Whipping up a bowl porridge with a cup of tea is a great way of finding ‘hygge’ and bringing a sense of togetherness with the family.
In Denmark, porridge isn’t just a breakfast staple but a common dish served among families at dinner so it’s the perfect (and easy) excuse to indulge in some oats, topped with cinnamon and apple in the winter months for warmth.
If you’ve ever been to Denmark, you’d be mistaken for thinking all of the women are part-time ninjas – such is their predominantly black-colored wardrobe.
Minimalism is key to Danish fashion, with many Danes preferring to boast an understated image with neutral colored apparel, with a slight note of individualism through details such as a piercing, structuring, a beanie or a white pump.
Also, the fact black absorbs heat and the temperature in Denmark can drop to −25 °C, it kind of makes sense that Danes are happy all the time – they’re warm.
Dress for the weather
If you’ve ever been caught out in the rain without an umbrella, stepped into a puddle in open-toe sandals or shivered at the slightest turn of the dial on the air conditioning, do like the Danes and dress for the weather.
And yes, that does means layers, waterproof coasts and wellington boots in winter.
A happy Dane is an appropriately-dressed Dane.
What Isn’t Hygge?
Staring at your phone all day. Sorry, this is the least hygge thing out there.
The TV is okay—although try inviting some friends over to watch movies with you, as togetherness is another key part of being hygge.
Hibernating indoors alone all winter. Again, while staying inside enjoying hot chocolate and a book is certainly hygge, getting outside to go for a long walk (yes, even in the winter) and spending time with friends and family is also a crucial part of the idea.
Strict rules. While Marie Kondo’s 2014 bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up inspired people to declutter their homes and only keep things that “sparked joy” in their life, hygge provides a friendlier and more forgiving lifestyle.
Hygge is all about keeping things simple (think Scandi-style interior design), but it also encourages people to live a little and say yes to that extra slice of cake. And after a couple of divisive and stress-filled years, it’s no mystery why Americans are all in for hygge.
Purchasing products just to be on-trend. At its heart, hygge is more about creating a certain atmosphere than things, so buying lots of expensive stuff is the opposite of hygge.
But people are already starting to wonder if the UK and American versions of hygge are just an excuse for companies to sell people things.
So, how do you hygge without buying into the hype? If you want to read more about the idea, feel free to pick up any of the new books about it. But if you want to be truly hygge, just remember to appreciate the simple things that bring joy to your life.
Instead of complaining about the bad weather this winter, light some candles and hunker down with a cup of tea and that book you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or if you’re feeling more social, cook up a pot of your famous chili recipe and invite your friends over for a board game night. Have fun getting hygge with it!
Conclusion: The essence of hygge is to enjoy at the moment. Don’t complain about cold weather just light a candle, make hot chocolate or cup of tea.
Get under the blanket, start reading a book. Be social to spend more time with your friends. Hygge is all about having a good time and yes have fun!