If you’ve opened a lifestyle magazine or browsed Pinterest at any time over the last couple of years, you’ve no doubt heard of hygge—the Danish lifestyle embodying all things cozy and warm.
You’ve probably already experienced hygge if you’ve ever come home from work, changed into your favorite sweats and curled up on the couch with a good book. Or if you’ve ever stayed in bed with a cup of tea on a rainy day.
Hygge defies translation into just one English word. It even has no single pronunciation in English; there’s a debate whether it’s “hue-guh” or “hoo-gah.” It defies grammar barriers, too, being used as a noun, an adjective, and a verb.
It originates from a 16th century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” which is related to the English word “hug.” Loosely, it can be described as “wellbeing.”
At any rate, it’s become such an international phenomenon that it appeared on Oxford Dictionary’s short list for word of the year in 2016, and it was officially added to the dictionary in 2017. Dozens of books popped up on Amazon.com in less than a couple of years—all devoted to showing Americans how they too could be more hygge.
What is hygge?
Hygge is more than holiday traditions or a home decorating trend with candles and chunky knit throws. (No matter what retailers tell you.) It’s a way of life that embraces coziness, simplicity and contentment. It’s mindfulness, consciousness and being in the present moment—preferably by candlelight. It’s intentional living at its best.
Hygge, more than anything, is a feeling.
Hygge developed as way to survive and thrive through the long, cold, dark Danish winters. Winter is “the” season for hygge, although as a way of life, the Danes practice it all year long (think walking on the beach collecting shells, or having picnics under a tree in summer).
But it’s also a panacea for modern-day ills like stress, anxiety, or the blues. As a conscious, thoughtful, gratitude-filled way of living, it can lead to a variety of emotional, physical and social benefits. Better sleep, healthier eating, deeper relationship bonds, and a more positive outlook are all potential benefits of slowing down and getting back to simple joys and pleasures.
It’s no wonder that the Danes are often ranked as the happiest people on Earth!
How to have more hygge
If all that sound sounds good to you, here are 8 simple ways to bring more good hygge vibes into your home and life.
Remember to keep it simple, warm and lovely. This isn’t about spending a lot of money on stuff; it’s about living a good life.
Danish people love their candles; some reports say that the Danes consume the most candles per capita of any European nation, some 13 pounds of wax per person per year! Candlelight is a big part of creating a soothing, calm, hygge atmosphere. LED candles are fine, too, as are Christmas tree lights—any light source that casts a warm glow.
2. Cozy clothes
Change into lounge wear when you come home from work to get into a hygge mood. Put on that favorite sweatshirt that’s so pilled you’d never leave the house in it but you love it anyway. Add some cozy socks for good measure.
Nothing creates a cozy, inviting atmosphere faster than a crackling fire. Outside, light up the firepit for an evening of conversation and mulled wine with friends. Hello, hygge!
From chunky wool knit throws to super soft and fuzzy acrylic blankets, you’ll need something to wrap up in on the couch or in your reading chair.
5. Warm drinks
Include a cup of tea, a mug of mulled wine, or a warm apple cider in your hygge evenings. Even sitting with a cup of coffee in the early morning quiet is quite hyggelike.
6. Comfort food
The Danes gave us danishes, so pastries are almost a requirement for a hygge lifestyle. But any food you find comforting and satisfying (yes, even a nice piece of cake) can bring a little hygge to your life. Cook up a pot of homemade soup or bake a loaf of bread like your grandma taught you.
While it’s perfectly fine to hygge with yourself, part of the hygge life is getting together with friends and loved ones for conversation, casual dinners, or game nights. And, in Danish style, getting outdoors is also on the hygge menu no matter what time of year.
A big part of hygge is being in the present moment. Leave work at a reasonable hour. Turn off your phone, shut down your email, stop browsing social media. Take a deep breath and tune in to the present.
To be sure, simply throwing a few warm blankets on the couch doesn’t make you more hygge. To get the most benefits, hygge invites you to slow down, to snuggle in that blanket, sip a cup of tea and read a book or watch a movie with your squeeze, your kids, or your dog by your side.
And then to sit back and take in that feeling of contentment.