Over the last few years, Hygge has grown in notoriety with more and more pins appearing on pinterest, books being published and articles in magazines. All of these aim to answer what you’d think would be a simple question: What is Hygge and how do we practice it?
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But there’s a problem with this question because Hygge isn’t a graspable object. Hygge (pronounced Hue-gah) is tricky to pin down because there isn’t a comparable word in English. It’s more of a concept, a mindset and a lifestyle or way of living, which encompasses many areas.
It’s not a piece of furniture you buy or a colour you paint your walls. It’s not a certain style or decor.
Hygge is more than just aesthetics. It’s not something you ‘practice’; not a journey you go on. It’s simply something you feel and endeavour to maintain through life as much as you can.
This Danish/Nordic way of living is attributed to why Danes are voted the happiest people in the world. Perhaps it comes so easy to them because it is something instilled throughout their lives and in the everyday.
And that is where every other article on the web is going wrong. With lists of ‘how to hygge’ the ‘ultimate hygge checklist’ instead of focusing how we can shift our mindset & day to day living to be more representative of Hygge.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HYGGE?
The big one, is of course, increased happiness.
We all long to be happy, improve our mental health & live a relax cosy life. Quite often the small stresses of day to day cloud that leading to a lot of negative emotion and behaviour.
Accepting and actively living the Hygge way, could lead to decreased depression & anxiety, improved feelings of self-wroth, increased optimism, lower levels of stress and better understanding of mindfulness.
Likewise, the enveloping acceptance of nature & the elements by Danes is attributed to their levels of fitness (and ability to indulge in delicious pastries!). Perferring to be out in nature opposed to in the gym, I can understand why. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the gym, but there is something about taking a walk next to the sea or strolling through a wood which just can’t be replicated.
So What is Hygge?
To quote Louisa Thompson Brits, who wrote the book of hygge (You can find it on Amazon Here)
‘ Hygge is a quality of presence and an experience of togetherness. It is a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted & sheltered’.
To me, this is synonymous with the feeling of home. Being around people you love, making memories that fill your heart with a warm glow.
But Hygge as a whole is more than just the cosiness we feel switching of the lights and curling up under candle glow. The Danes try and incorporate Hygge into every part of their life instead of just making it an act of self care to complete once or twice a week.
EMBRACE THE OUTDOORS, THE HYGGE WAY
They contrast the warmth and comfort of home by getting outside in all weathers and all occasions. A walk in the woods isn’t reserved for a dry summers day. If in doubt, layer up & wrap up. I think this is a really refreshing idea. We Brits tend to focus on the weather a lot but view it as quite restricting. Many a time I’ve seen questions in Mum groups asking what can we do today, as the weathers rubbish?
Being in nature calms you and allows you to be more mindful, more reflective. There is something about the sounds, the smells which just refreshes me completely. It’s also a hell of a lot cheaper than retail therapy! So I think the answer, Mums everywhere, is layer up, wrap up and get out in it!
In our house I always make sure we have puddle suits which fit, thick socks in winter, wellies & plenty of food to turn into a picnic!
For the Danes, taking up sports and eco-friendly travel isn’t blocked by the weather either which to me is a wonderful mindset. I used to be incredibly sporty and physically engaged (I don’t want to say physically fit but I was definitely active!). However since growing up and gaining responsibilities – house, bills, children – I’ve found I often ignore or reschedule getting out of the house because I just have too many other things to do. But in reality, why are we allowing the weather to dictate whether we get out in this beautiful world and explore?
So what if you get a bit wet! Who cares if your face is flushed from a cold wind. Some of my best memories are spending Boxing Day on the beach with my family, the brisk wind, the icy sea and a real sense of living.
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NORDIC DESIGN, BEAUTY & FUNCTIONALITY
Two other elements of Hygge are self sufficiency & simplicity. Ikea is synonymous with Nordic decor & styling and I totally get why! Clean, simple, functional – it’s everything you need and want from furniture and design.
Louisa Thompson Brits
The belief is that if you have a roof over your head, a table to gather round with friends & loved ones, some delicious food & maybe a glass to hand, then all you need is time spent in nature and you’ve got it made.
Perhaps one of the reasons Danes are so relaxed and happy is because they use simplistic styling in their homes to help uncluttered their mind. Think about the things that stress you most about where you live and I would bet that clutter & lack of space are near the top. I’m exactly the same. We have far to much stuff in far to small a space.
Brits naturally are horders. We hold to everything that crosses are palm, for sentimentality or just in case. There is beauty however of natural simplistic living that Scandinavians champion.
I imagine if you ask people who’ve heard of Hygge what it means to them they would answer something like this:
The coming home, to warmth. Putting on your favourite cosy jumper or Pjs. Making a warm comforting hot chocolate or coffee or [insert here].
And simply being sociable with those that you love. Laughing, engaging, feasting and loving, all while making irreplaceable memories.
Yes, Hygge definitely encourages a sense of home. The atmosphere of candlelight or a log fire burning is something which just can’t be replicated. But Hygge encourages embracing all our senses and I can understand why.
Smell alone can be incredibly thought provoking; for me, if I smell Chanel No.5 I’m taken right back to my Nan, who always had that gorgeous smell around her.
It’s the same if I smell a freshly baked loaf of bread, or pastries just out of the oven. It evokes a feeling of joy and contentment for me, as well as hungry, obvs!
TOGETHERNESS & SOLITUDE
There is contrast in everything Hygge, as you may have already seen.
Embracing the outdoors; loving our homes.
Simple, functional design; Cosy, layered warmth.
Therefore, it should be of no surprise that being together with friends, family, acquaintances and sharing moments of Hygge is just as important as Solitude. And I mean self lead solitude, which is completely different to lonliness.
Solitude can be just as healthy as being sociable and engaged. It allows us to reflect, decompress and relax in a healthy way. I quite often find myself in solitude at the moment, busy-ing away at my desk. But it’s ok, because I love what I do. I love researching, writing and creating.
But at the end of the week, when all the work is done (ha! yeah right, its a bit like the laundry. Just when you think the basket’s empty, more appears!) My favourite thing to do with Mr.HIMA is curl up together and do a Netflix binge, watch a film or play games together.
AND LET’S RECAP; WHAT IS HYGGE?
Embracing nature in all it forms and exploring it.
Being self sufficient
Comfort, in all its forms
Embracing our senses and being present
Delicious food & decedent treats
Togetherness and a circle of warmth.
Solitude, reflection and growth.
I quizzed a Norwegian friend on mine on Hygge while I was researching this post and she said, ‘Hygge can be anything. It is just being happy and content, being together. when I think hygge I go straight to a table with some food or drinks, people I love aeound the table and lots of laughs‘.
I don’t think they’re all that much different than us to be honest. They’ve just honed their skills in being mindful, present and appreciative of all that’s around us.
If we too can learn to focus our mind on living Hygge instead of trying to practice Hygge, perhaps we can gain levels of happiness akin to that of the Danes. Perhaps we can be more in touch with nature & ourselves, form strong bonds and cradle (wrong word, as in to help children grow) life long relationships. Hygge is definitely a way of living I aspire to!
What about you? Do you Live Hygge? Let me know in the Comments!