What is Hygge and How to Bring it into Your Life


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So you’ve seen this odd looking word hygge, circulating around the Internet and lighting the fireplaces in people’s minds and hearts. It has some sort of magic in it, a little mystery that keeps you coming back to it again and again. It’s like this little word has life of its own.

What is hygge?

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word which carries so many nuances that it’s impossible to translate it directly. And that’s no wonder – it holds the essence of the Danish culture – and that is something you need to feel to fully understand.

According to the Oxford dictionary hygge is the

“quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. “

So you can start with thinking of hygge as a particularly deep type of coziness. It’s a coziness that you feel with your body, mind and soul. It spreads from you towards your environment and encompasses all things you enjoy and hold dearly.

I found it truly enlightening reading about the etymology of the word hygge in Wikipedia. It turns out its roots are somewhere deep in Old Norse (the grand dad of all Scandinavian languages) and they hold diverse meanings like “to give courage, comfort, joy”, “to think”, “to embrace”, “hug”, “mood”. It is no wander it evolved into such a complex and in the same time coherent concept.

In the early 19th century, the word hygge made it to the Danish language and it simmered there until modern days when it suddenly transformed itself into the heart of the nation and consequentially – into a world-wide phenomenon. It is now argued that hygge is the main reason why the Danes are always named some of the happiest people on Earth. And there are solid grounds to these arguments.

Denmark is a country that is dark and cold half of the year. Being so further up north, its natural conditions do not promote happiness all by themselves. But the Danes’ mindset does. They managed to turn the disadvantage of short days with little sunshine and long winters with freezing temperatures into an advantage. They transformed surviving into thriving. And hygge is how they did it. They simply made living a hygge life their priority.

What is a hygge life?

In short – a hygge life is a relaxed, slow paced living where the focus is on being comfortable both alone and with a small group of people you love- your family and friends.

With the outside being such an unfavorable place for months and months at a time, the Danes turned the inside – their homes – into temples of comfort and safety, where the body and soul could be truly nourished and protected.

In his book which turned hygge from just the way the Danes live into a worldwide phenomenon – The Little Book of Hygge – Meik Wiking includes a Hygge Manifesto. He describes the 10 simple little things that will let you submerge into this wonderful way of life that is hygge:

1. Atmosphere – turn down the lights and light some candles – you will instantly start feeling the magic.
2. Presence – be here, be in the moment. Turn off your phone and connect to your surroundings and the people you are with.
3. Pleasure – indulge in life’s little pleasures and always say yes to chocolate.
4. Equality – just share – the good and the bad and don’t try to put yourself over the others, you will see how liberating and relaxing this actually is.
5. Gratitude – say thank you with your heart – for the big things in your life and the small.
6. Harmony – don’t be arrogant and brag. Just enjoy the company.
7. Comfort – life’s too short for itchy clothes and uncomfortable shoes. Get your comfy on and relax.
8. Truce – there’s no room for drama and policy when hygge is in the air.
9. Togetherness – gather your people – you know, the ones you feel like you’ve known for ages and can truly be yourself with, and just talk and tell stories together.
10. Shelter – create a truly safe space – where there’s no room for fear and insecurities – just for comfort, coziness and happiness.

Practical tips on how to get your hygge on:

1. Hygge is in the light

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

There is no wonder that Meik Wiking put the cozy atmosphere in the beginning of his hygge manifesto. It is scientifically proven that the environment can hugely influence the way we feel and think. So if you want to make feeling cozy easier – than make your home as cozy as possible. The easiest way to achieve that is to turn down the lights. Overhead lighting is not a big friend of hygge. Instead of it, you could try maximizing the natural light during the day by taking away the blinds or the heavy curtains and maybe placing a few mirrors strategically to reflect the light and spread it throughout the room.

In the evening, make the light soft with some candles, nightshades or floorlamps in the corners of the room. This will help you unwind and destress after a long day and will ease your way to sleep.

2. Own the place

Image by Jonny Lindner from Pixabay

By that I don’t mean you should absolutely buy the house you live in. I mean that you should feel like this place is your place, that it reflects your personality and makes you feel good and safe. You can do this by placing some decorations that you made yourself or that you are honestly fond of, displaying photos of your happy moments with friends and family, having the book (or books) you currently read ready for you on the table etc. Anything that will make you connect with the space the moment you set your foot inside.

3. Clear but not sterile

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

There is a reason why decluttering is so hugely popular right now. A messy space disrupts your concentration and promotes anxiety – as hard as it is for me to admit it, cause I’ve never been a master of organization. But! Don’t ever make the mistake of taking the signs of life out of your home for the sake of a clutter free house. A throw on the couch, your book on the coffee table, your slippers by the door and your guitar laying by the side of your bed…Don’t deprive your home from the chance to tell your story. Hygge is life and it should be lived not showcased in a “perfect” home.

4. Let life in

Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

As I said – hygge is life. It makes sense that be letting some more life inside your home, you will promote the feeling of hygge. So bring in some potted plants, start your own herb garden in the kitchen, get a furry friend if you don’t already have one. You will feel so much more happy and vibrant, and so much more hygge.

5. Bake some yummy goodness

Photo by Dana DeVolk on Unsplash

Baked goods are one of the hygge essentials and they are part of Danes everyday life. It is sure a pleasure indulging in a decadent chocolate cake every now and then. However, it is way better making it yourself, because you get your home smelling like chocolate and vanilla, yummm! But most of all, you weave your feelings and emotions in what you bake and make it extra special for the people you are going to share it with – your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. You can definitely taste the difference and you get so much more contentment then when you just buy something from the store. So next time you’re having guests or you just feel like it, pick a recipe and get baking – let your thoughts and emotions flow, submerge yourself in the act of mixing the ingredients and just let hygge welcome you in its warm embrace.

6. There’s always time and place for family and friends

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

Having friends and family over is one of the most powerful conductor of hygge. The feeling of togetherness is something that can warm your soul in a second and keep it warm for days and weeks. So make sure you always have time for meeting with your dear ones and don’t stress over being the perfect host. These are your people – they care about your company and hot about getting a five star experience. You can host potluck dinners, or gather to cook up something together – doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just has to be fun and comforting. Sharing experiences, laughter and company – that is what matters and that is what hygge is.

7. Turn your electronics off in the evening

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

There is no doubt that our modern life will be almost unthinkable without our smart phones, tablets, laptops etc. But you cannot put your hand to heart and say that they don’t stress you out. All those notifications constantly demanding your attention and distracting you from your life in the moment can shush all the hygge out of you in a second. So try setting them aside after a certain time every evening. At our home this is 9 pm. Comes 9 pm all phones and computers are turned off so that we can focus on what truly matters – family and ourselves.

8. Get in the habit of expressing gratitude

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Saying “thank you” and truly feeling it inside your heart is a powerful thing. It is so much more than being polite and a decent human being. It actually helps you appreciate your life much more, it helps you feel happy. Feeling grateful turns your attention towards all that’s good in your life. And believe me, there is so much anyone can be grateful about, no matter if you feel you’re in a bad place at the moment or that you’re on top of the world. If you’re not accustomed to that I suggest you start a gratitude journal, or just write down 5 things you are grateful for each day – and they have to be different things every day. That way you will train your mind to search for the good, to look for the things that make you smile and you won’t notice how quickly your mind will shift and your happiness levels will be higher than ever. And most importantly, you this habit will help you be mindful and stay present which is so hygge!

9. Connect to the outdoors

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Yes, hygge is most often connected to being cozy and comfy at your home, and while this is a huge part of it, it is not the only way to do it. In fact, the Danes are a huge fan of the outdoors and they head out whenever they get a chance. It’s all in the contrast – just think of how amazing it will feel when you get to your cozy, warm home after your cheeks have been kissed by the frosty air outside.

Another reason why going outside contributes to hygge is that it is very good for your health and it helps you feel cozy in your own body. You get to soak up some sunshine and keep your Vitamin D levels up and that is a must for your good mood and hormone regulation. You also get your body moving which is beneficial for your muscle tone, bone strength, blood pressure and not to mention how it will naturally decrease your stress levels.

What it really takes to live a hygge life

Hygge is huge right now and it has been for years. And there’s a reason for it – it is so different than what the modern western world experiences on a daily basis. It offers a safe harbor, an oasis in the stressful mess that is our life. And at the same time, it looks so natural, so easy.

But the truth is that living a hygge life is not so simple. This sounds controversial, I know, but hear me out.

In order to live a hygge life, you need to make a lifestyle change.

And this is easier said than done. Our daily lives are comprised by habits – big and small – and – as anyone who has tried going on a diet can tell you – habits are tough to break.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The only way you can truly live a hygge life is by adopting a hygge mindset. This may require shifting your priorities, making some compromises, truly connecting to yourself and listening to your needs as opposed to the societies demands.

But if you honestly want to live that life of simple wanders – you will make it happen – one cozy step at a time.

And if you ever need some inspiration or encouragement on your journey towards a hygge life – I’m here for you 🙂

Happy hygge-ing!



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