Are you living a ‘Hygge’ life? If you haven’t discovered this amazing Danish lifestyle trend sweeping the world, it’s time you did. In this article, we make it easy for you.
How to live a Hygge Life
Have you heard of hygge? Pronounced ‘Hoo-gah’, it’s the Danish lifestyle trend that is loosely described as ‘the art of cosiness’. Hygge is all about self-care, comfort and doing things that make you feel good. “The true essence of hygge is the pursuit of everyday happiness and it’s basically like a hug, just without the physical touch,” says Meik Wiking, author of ‘The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living’. Hygge can be defined as the following:
- Moments in life brimming with contentment, comfort, cosiness, favourite things, beautiful places
- Taking pleasure in the present moment
Hygge is not just doing one thing. Rather, it’s doing a collection of things and living in a more mindful, warm-and-fuzzy way. Hygge can be felt in things like woolly socks and track pants, scented candles, curling up under a blanket by a fire to sip mulled wine while reading a book or binge watching a favourite TV series. Key ingredients are togetherness, relaxation, indulgence, presence and comfort.
The happiest country on Earth
Hygge has been fundamental to Danish culture for centuries. Hygge is said to be one reason why, according to the ‘World Happiness Report’, Denmark rates as the ‘happiest country in the world’, despite a wet, cold climate where it rains for nearly half the year and winters are brutally long and dark.
Hygge takes world by storm
It’s only recently that hygge has taken the wider English-speaking world by storm. Hygge features have appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times, The Guardian and many other notable publications. It has also been trending on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram.
This Danish word has no direct equivalent in English. The closest translation is ‘cosiness’, but it means more than that. The word ‘hygge’ comes from an Old Norse word, ‘hugga’, which means to comfort or console. This is also the source of the English word ‘hug’.
What makes something Hygge?
Examples of hygge life tend to share five main attributes:
1. Comfort: Comfy clothes, a crackling fire, a mug of mulled wine.
2. Companionship: While hygge can be alone time (a couch, a blanket, a book), they say it’s twice as hygge to enjoy experiences with others. For example, share a hearty home-cooked meal or watch a classic movie.
3. Relaxation: This isn’t the same thing as sitting still. Going for a leisurely Sunday afternoon walk is good. Just remember, haste or hurry will spoil the mood.
4. Connecting with nature: Though it’s good to be comfy indoors, a full hygge life involves spending time outdoors, too. Living hygge means enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of nature: a thunderstorm outside the window, flowers in bloom, the warbling of a tui in a tree. Cooking with fresh, natural ingredients is also part of the hygge lifestyle.
5. Simplicity: Hygge is enjoying the simple things in life, rather than chasing after the thrilling. Recognise and enjoy the present. Sipping your morning coffee… in your bathrobe… while sitting on your porch is hygge.
How do you practice Hygge?
Hygge is often about nesting and curling up in a comfy spot, luxuriating in the cosiness of it all. It ties in ideas of companionship, wholesomeness and contentment, all wrapped up into one harmonious whole. The great thing about hygge is that it’s incredibly easy to do on a budget. You probably already have everything you need. If you want to live a healthier, happier, hygge life, here are a few ideas to get you started:
Put on comfy clothes
To get hygge you need to change into something comfortable. Woollen socks and sweatshirts or woollen jumpers are obvious choices. Track pants you’d never be seen in outside of your home complete your outfit (in Denmark, these pants even have a name: hyggebusker).
Light some candles
Ask any Dane, and they’ll tell you the easiest way to create a ‘hyggelig atmosphere’ is to decorate the room with the warm glow of candles (they even have a term ‘lyselukker’, which means ‘someone who puts out the candles’ i.e. a spoilsport).
Light a fire
Fire is primal. We are drawn to it, love to feel its warmth and we find the flames mesmerising. Fire has been crucial to human survival for millennia. It’s no wonder we find comfort in it.
Curl up under a blanket
Hygge blankets (yes, they’re a thing) are a super-soft chunky knit blanket with a comforting weight, often made of merino wool. Soft, warm and cosy… what could be better when it’s wet and cold outside?
Enjoy a hot drink
Any hot drink will do… hot chocolate… coffee… tea… soup. But in Denmark, the perfect hygge drink is ‘glogg’, which is spiced mulled wine. On a cold day, a hot, steaming mug in your hand is a pleasure that costs only pennies.
Read a book
Once you’re wrapped up under your blanket with a hot drink in hand, a good book is the perfect hygge activity to escape our fast-paced modern world and journey to somewhere else.
Share a meal
Sharing a home-cooked meal is much more hygglig than dining out. The focus should be on comfort food rather than haute cuisine, and fancy presentation is unnecessary. Load up the slow cooker, fill your home with delicious aromas and invite friends over.
Play a board game
Hosting a board game night is a very hygge way to spend time with family or friends. No video games here! Board games are a great way to have fun at minimal expense and they offer companionship, relaxation and entertainment.
Watch a movie with friends
Curled up on the couch watching a movie or mini-series with your partner or friends can also be a hygge activity. Scary shows are particularly popular, as it feels especially cosy to watch something frightening when you’re snug and safe in your home.
What could be cosier than snuggling? It combines most of the elements of hygge: comfort, relaxation, simplicity and spending time with people you’re close to. Snuggle under a blanket with your partner, your children, your pet. It’s warm, cosy and costs nothing at all.
As you may have realised, Hygge activities tend to focus on those suited to wintertime. But you can still indulge in hygge activities in summer. These include reading a book under a leafy tree, pausing to feel the sun on your face, going on a picnic, having a barbecue with friends, sitting around an outdoor fire in the evening, going on a bushwalk, stopping to smell flowers in bloom or watching a movie outdoors. Summertime hygge is all about companionship and connecting with nature.
Make sure you make time for Hygge
For most of us, life is busy. Too busy, sometimes. And we can often feel guilty if we’re not getting ‘stuff’ done, even in our downtime. Hygge is a refreshing take on daily life and reminds us to revel in what makes us feel good and to take time to really enjoy life.
7 Top Hygge Movies for a Rainy Day
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Toy Story
- The Princess Bride
- Sleepless in Seattle
- The Notebook
- The Shawshank Redemption
- The Shining
Suggested Hygge reading:
- The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, Meik Wiking
- How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life, Signe Johansen
- Discovering the Danish Art Of Happiness – How to Live Cozily and Enjoy Life’s Simple Pleasures, Olivia Telford