Embrace hygge this winter

As the sun sets earlier, the rain falls harder and the nights grow longer, the concept of hygge has never been more appropriate. Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) originates from old Norwegian, but is commonly practiced across Scandinavia, and is often associated with the Danish way of living. Hygge roughly translates to ‘cosiness’ and encourages a slow-paced, comfortable, contented, simpler way of living. Over the past few years – years that encountered numerous lockdowns, colder winters, and global political unrest – hygge has boomed in popularity. This way of living began trending in the UK after numerous books on the topic were published in 2016, this list includes but is not limited to: ‘The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living’; ‘Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness’, and ‘The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well.’ Since hygge has been a trending word over the past few years, it seems appropriate to discuss what it truly cultivates, why it is important, and how you can introduce hygge into your daily life.

What is hygge?

Essentially, hygge is centred around living a cosy life: sitting in natural candlelight instead of the overhead light, being snuggled on the sofa with a book and cup of tea, watching television with blankets over you and your loved ones – all of this embodies hygge. It’s about creating a warm atmosphere where you can switch off from your busy, fast-paced life and embrace living with more intention and peace. Whilst it is a concept of living that can be practiced independently, it is most commonly practiced with friends and family. Hygge activities as a group include hosting a games night, watching a film with your family, or simply sharing meals together and discussing the big and small elements of life. According to ‘The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well’ there are 10 rules to hygge: atmosphere, presence, pleasure, equality, gratitude, harmony, comfort, truce, togetherness and, finally, shelter.

Why hygge is important:

This emphasis on carving out time to socialise with loved ones is perhaps a big factor as to why Danes are considered some of the happiest people in the world, as healthy interactions with others promotes your brain to release the chemicals dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin – all of the happy chemicals! The ‘equality’ principle regarding hygge can seem vague, but it is actually a really important aspect. Denmark is a rich country, with Danish households ranked as the richest in the European Union; yet when it comes to hygge, it can be effectively incorporated whether you are rich or poor. It is a concept that unites the Danish population because it does not cost much to enjoy a games night with friends in your comfiest clothes – it is a way of living for all those living.

How you can introduce hygge into your busy life:

The wonderful thing about hygge is that it is not a time-consuming way of living. Unlike going on holiday, which boosts happiness and promotes socialisation but costs money and time, hygge is accessible to everyone. Incorporate hygge by cultivating a cosy atmosphere where you remain intentionally present (watch the film, don’t scroll on your phone too!), and gain pleasure from these simple actions. Hygge is not intrinsically linked to minimalism; yet many people who incorporate hygge embrace a minimalist approach to life because pleasure is derived from the gentle rain fall outside, in lieu of materialism. If you work the majority of the day, hygge can still be achieved by carving out as little as 30 minutes in your evening to appreciate the dark evenings, mindfully cook dinner with dim lighting, and feel gratitude for the comfort of your home.

Winter is considered the high season for hygge, as it makes the seemingly endless darkness feel like a comfort, instead of something to dread. It is especially prevalent in Denmark because their winters are notoriously dark and bitterly cold, but with the inclusion of hygge, the Danes are able to appreciate the winter months and fight the darkness of with millions of candles and blankets. As the nights get longer and snowfall isn’t far away, perhaps it’s time we view these dark months as cosy months.

Featured image: by Alena Zadorozhnaya via Pexels

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