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.
3. Unplug and Slow Down
“We don't hygge to be content, we find contentment in hygge. Hygge is... about pleasure, presence and participation. It's... the understanding that if we are to wholeheartedly participate in life, we are entitled to small islands of calm.” ~ Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well
Another great way to be more hyggelig is to unplug from your devices, take time away from your phone, computer and other electronics, and instead focus on the people and activities in the moment. It is an invitation to slow down, smell the rich seasonal aromas, feel the textures of cozy blankets, take in the beauty of the world around you, and get really present with those that you love.
“Hygge happens when we commit to the pleasure of the present moment in its simplicity. It’s there in the things we do that give everyday life value and meaning, that comfort us, make us feel at home, rooted and generous.”
~ Louisa Thomsen Brits
4. Spend Time with Family and Loved Ones
"Hygge pays attention to the concerns of the human spirit, turning us towards a manner of living that priorities simple pleasure, friendship and connection above consumption.” ~ Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge
Prioritizing friendships, family, and time with loved ones is a high priority for Danes, and not just any time spent with these people, but quality time. Many Danes talk about opting for small intimate social gatherings where you can connect deeply, rather than scattered large parties where close connection can sometimes feel lost in the shuffle.
5. Share Home Cooked Meals
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.”
~ Virginia Woolf
Slow cooking, pot roasts, and comfort foods are all to be enjoyed in the spirit of hygge. There are some shops in Copenhagen that only serve warm porridge all day long as an ode to hygge. What foods remind you of fond memories and help you feel warm and delighted among friends?
"The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Cosying up with a loved one for a movie – that’s hygge, too. And there's nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.” (source)
6. Sip Steaming Drinks
“Because the best gift in life, is just having someone to drink hot chocolate with.” ~ Tessa Shaffer, Heaven Has No Regrets
Hot cocoa, teas, mulled wine, coffee, and hot cider are all great drinks to add to your repertoire for creating the ultimate cozy winter's day. Anything spiced and warm will do.
7. Craft Time
"Craft makes our homes more human." ~ Ilsa Crawford
Gingerbread houses, clove oranges, drawing, collaging, cutting out paper snowflakes, or knitting are great projects to take up on cold winter's nights. Anything you can do together adds to the fun of it.
8. Cozy Up With a Good Book
"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." ~ Walt Disney
Once you have your cozy reading nook decked out with pillows, plush blankets and fairy lights, it is a perfect time to snuggle up with a favorite book.
9. Reflect on Fond Memories
“Memories warm you up from the inside.” ~ Haruki Murakami
Another great activity to help cultivate an inner sense of warm and fuzzy feelings is to reflect on fond memories with loved ones and share in the delight, laughter, and joy of recounting favorite stories, looking through photo albums or making lists of the moments spent together that you most appreciate. Now many smart phones have the 'memories' feature that will even help you create slideshows with music to help you remember your most prized times. This is an excellent way to bond, feel a deeper connection, and cultivate a sense of gratitude and appreciation.
10. Go on a Wonder Walk
“Hygge is our awareness of the scale of our existence in contrast to the immensity of life. It is our sense of intimacy and encounter with each other and with the creaturely world around us. It is the presence of nature calling us back to the present moment, calling us home.” ~ Louisa Thomsen Brits
It was a great moment when I started reading about the Danish love of long walks in nature as a way to cultivate more hygge because that has been my core practice of cultivating more wonder and joy and delight in my life this past year. Many of my principles for my life of wonder are deeply related to hygge. To learn more about my love affair with wonder, take a browse through my other blog posts and stay tuned for more wonder offerings.
Enjoy your hygge winter!
Feel free to share your favorite hygge practices and activities below.
If you'd like a Guided Journal to cozy up with this winter,
then check out my Twelve Nights of Peace Holy Nights Guided Journal and practice.