What is Hygge and How to Experience More of It?

“Hygge is about having less, enjoying more; the pleasure of simply being. It is generous and celebratory, a way to remember the importance

of the simple act of living itself.” ~ Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well

The fireplace gently crackles and pops as the snow lightly falls outside. I pull the plush knitted blanket over my thick wool socks. My cat purrs as she nestles up against me in our cozy reading nook. I take a sip of my steaming hot cocoa and smile to myself, the aroma reminding me of joyful scenes from my childhood. I return to my book, hoping to finish a few more pages before three of my closest friends come over and my cookies finish baking in the oven. The sweet aroma of melting chocolate chips starts to waft through the air as I hear the muffled laughter of my friends arriving on this cold snowy night. This, my friends, is hygge.

Hygge (pronounced roughly "hoo gah") is a Danish concept that loosely translates to a mood of coziness, wellbeing, contentment, and a nice atmosphere. Derived from a Norwegian word for "well-being," hygge is a way of life for Danes, a way of mindful presence, appreciation, slowing down, and enjoying the pleasures of good food, good company and the simple moments of life. I've also heard people speak about hygge as the art of building sanctuary and community in ways that help us feel open-hearted and connected, and help us experience a sense of warmth.

One of the things I’ve loved about writing this Wonder Wednesdays Blog Series is that I’ve learned so much about different emotional qualities and experiences that I hadn't been able to put words to previously. After exploring Kama Muta, aesthetic arrest, moral elevation, and even why we cry tears of joy, I thought it was only fitting to explore hygge.

I have always loved cooking candlelit dinners for small groups of friends, recounting favorite memories, snuggling up to read good books in cozy reading nooks, and appreciating the simple pleasures of life. One of my favorite ways to celebrate my birthday is to cook an elaborate meal for a small group of loved ones and write each person a handmade gratitude card in which I express my appreciation and love. Luckily I found the concept of 'hygge' and realized I am most definitely not alone in these pursuits.

Hygge is the Danish people's national pride. Meik Wiking, the author of The Little Book of Hygge, said, "what freedom is to Americans. . . hygge is to Danes." As a country that experiences long dark winters and yet is consistently rated as one of the most happy in the world, Denmark can teach us a thing or two about this love affair with all things cozy. So here is a list of 10 ways to experience more hygge in your life this winter season.

1. Create a Cozy Environment

"The perfect antidote to dark, cold and creepy is light, warm and cozy."

~ Candice Olson

Candles play a central role in Danish life, with far more pounds of candle wax being burnt each winter than any of their neighboring countries. In fact, "Danes burn a whopping 13 pounds of candle wax a year per capita according to Wiking—more than any other country in the world" (source). The warm flickering glow of candlelight or fireplaces are perfect ways to create a warm and cozy atmosphere in a home.

Freshly baked treats, bread, or even heating a pot of apple cider on the stovetop are other great ways to fill a home with a deliciously inviting atmosphere.

Small cozy spaces are also to be greatly enjoyed. Danes even have a word for a cozy nook, which they call a 'hyggekrog.' (Feel free to have a browse on Pinterest for some hyggekrog inspiration!)

2. Bring out the Thick Knits

"Knitting is clothing made in spare moments, or round the fire, whenever women gathered together... It's something to celebrate-clothes made in love and service, something women have always done.” ~ Anne Bartlett, Knitting

Wool socks, thick knitted scarves, leg warmers, hats and warm blankets are all very hyggelig. You are invited to savor the experience of relief and delight of putting on knit sweaters on a chilly day or mittens when the frost begins to bite.

Hygge image of a cozy warm mug of coffee while reading a book