What is Hygge? Denmark is ranked one of the happiest countries in the world, and there are many things we can take away from their unique culture to bring more happiness into our own lives. Today we explore one tool, the Danish concept of Hygge, a word all their own that embodies the slowing down, cozy, and warm winter feeling. Warm and winter? This may seem like a paradox, but the capacity of the Danish to bring together cold and cozy, is undoubtedly one of how they keep happiness throughout the cold dark season.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
What is Hygge?
Hygge (pronounced HUE-gah) is the quality of coziness, comfort, and contentment embodied in the Danish and Norwegian lifestyles. It is indeed a lifestyle and hinges on finding the warmth and pleasure in the most simple things represented in a feeling. For example, you could find this feeling in the atmosphere of a room or in sharing a warm cup of tea with a good friend. Hygge is to take this feeling and make it a lifestyle.
How to Live a Hygge Lifestyle
Although there is no direct translation for hygge into English, if you could summarize it into one word, it would probably be cozy. To embody coziness as a lifestyle is one way the Danish people keep up their happiness levels despite long dreary winters. So why not try implementing some of the hygge lifestyle into your home and life this winter?
1. Slow Down
Winter encompasses a whole lot of reasons to ramp things up. First, the Christmas holidays are so full of social events, parties, and food– the entire thing can feel like a whirlwind. Next, you are met with new years eve parties and the tornado of new year’s resolutions and projects. Two months have gone by before you know it, and you have barely blinked an eye.
Instead of trying to propel your way through January with goal-setting and to-do lists, why not try scaling it back and slowing right down. Hygge is all about finding pleasure in the most simple things, the things already right in front of you.
If hygge is the new goal, try switching gears from new starts and plans to laying back and witnessing the miracles that already exist in your everyday life. Can you learn to appreciate your body for all it has done for you instead of trying to whip it into a new year new shape? Can you take a moment to sit with your kids, friends, or family and thank them for the simplest things that they do?
Slowing down enables us to witness the miracles of everyday life, which otherwise can fly by without even batting an eye.
2. Spend more time with Family and Friends
There is no doubt that a big part of the hygge lifestyle is the connection with loved ones. Human connection is such a vital part of health and making that a priority enables you to really relish in your relationships.
Life can get busy, but making friends and family time a priority soothing the nervous system 1. Consider choosing a day (or more) per week to spend with a group of loved ones without phones or technology. For example, you could host a games night, a potluck, or find a shared activity to all participate in together. Making a regular ritual helps ensure that these connections are deepened and strengthened over time.
3. Keep it Simple
One of the overarching concepts of hygge is simplicity. It is finding beauty in the otherwise mundane, like how the snow glistens in the sun or the smell of a roast chicken in the oven. When it comes to hygge: less is more.
Embodying simplicity can be done in every aspect of your life. Consider a deep clean of your house, getting rid of the clutter and creating more space in your physical space and your mind. Simplicity could extend itself to your cooking methods, not needing to make super fancy recipes and just sticking to simple foods, just honoring their natural flavors. It doesn’t get much more hygge than meat and potatoes.
You could also keep your plans simple, with friends and family. Don’t worry about the details and the planning; just get together and see where the night takes you!
4. Opt for Natural Light
Whether it be a bright open window in the daytime or a plain beeswax candle at night: the simplicity of natural light has hygge written all over it. Artificial light is highly stimulating to your nervous system, so making natural light a priority is undoubtedly cozy and comforting. A roaring fire on a cold winter’s night, and a warm cup of tea, and you’re ready to bask in what it means to live a hygge lifestyle.
Avoiding artificial light before bed also supports a natural circadian rhythm, which means deeper sleep at night 2. The better your sleep hygiene, the more relaxed your whole body will be during the day. This restfulness will help ensure that you can indeed slip into a more relaxed state of being, which is key to the hygge life.
5. Make it from Scratch
Although it may appear counterintuitive to put more effort into making things from scratch (isn’t hygge all about simplicity?), there is also something very intuitively cozy about slowing down and connecting with a longer-term project. It could be something you build or something you bake, but taking the time to make something from scratch is very hygge.
We live in a fast-paced world, which often takes things for granted. However, the art of hygge is about appreciating the small stuff; making things yourself helps with an appreciation of the otherwise mundane.
Take bread, for example. How easy is it to buy bread at the store and eat it mindlessly? When you bake bread, however, and spend a whole day working through the stages of fermentation, resting, folding, and baking: the bread is appreciated in a whole new light!
6. Put Down the Technology
Technology typically does not fit with the hygge lifestyle. Technology takes us out of the present moment and into another space. Whether watching the news or scrolling through social media: multitasking like that is the antithesis of hygge!
Although not all technology is wrong, we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater: try spending more time unplugging this winter. You could sit by the roaring fire with a good book, spend time with friends, or try baking a loaf of bread from scratch! Slowing down to witness real-life unfolding in front of you is what hygge is all about.
7. Put your Feet Up
When was the last time you (literally) put your feet up? Be it on a stool, laying on the couch with your feet elevated, or 90 degrees up the wall: the act of lifting your feet above your heart has many health benefits and is definitely hygge approved.
One last thing about hygge is that you don’t need to know the benefits to know; it simply feels good. Hygge is about a feeling. It’s about disconnecting from the need to understand why and how and where and just be in the moment, soaking in the small pleasures of life. So go ahead, put your feet up, pick up a cup of tea, dim the lights, and be merry!
The Scandinavian art of hygge is all about embodying coziness. To slow down, be present with the beauty and magic of the most mundane aspects of life. These countries consistently score as some of the happiest countries on earth, and it is not surprising considering the general outlook on life! Winters may be long, but by implementing some of the hygge mentality into your life, you too can sit back and relax into the simplicity of living!
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
1 Eisenberger, Naomi I. “Social ties and health: a social neuroscience perspective.” Current opinion in neurobiology vol. 23,3 (2013): 407-13. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2013.01.006
2 Tähkämö, Leena et al. “Systematic review of light exposure impact on human circadian rhythm.” Chronobiology international vol. 36,2 (2019): 151-170. doi:10.1080/07420528.2018.1527773