Sitting cozied up in a little nook while enjoying a good book and some steaming hot cocoa. Spending a warm, summer evening with your small circle of friends roasting marshmallows over an open fire and enjoying intimate conversation until midnight. Playing board games with your family and really being there, being mindful, enjoying the moment… being present
All of these things sound cozy and full of life, don’t they? Perhaps the words “self-care” come to mind? These things actually make up a concept that describes a way of life, not an item on your to-do list or the name of a Pinterest board.
Welcome to the idea of hygge, a centuries-old Danish cultural staple. It is defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Simply put, it is “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.
The closest English translation is “cozy,” but that doesn’t really explain it fully. Being a bit abstract, defining it clearly seems to be a bit difficult, at least when trying to be succinct.
For hundreds of years, the Danish have been combating long, cold, harsh winters with this culture of warmth and enjoying whatever life presents. Scandinavia contends with long, dark days for much of the year, and the idea of gathering indoors with loved ones, lighting candles, relaxing under blankets with warm food and drink allows them to find joy and contentment even in the bleak winter.
The interesting thing is that despite the long, cold winter days, the Danish are consistently ranked as the happiest people in the world. Could it be that the lifestyle of being present and focusing on the simple, pleasant things in life brings that happiness?
British-Danish writer Louisa Thomsen Brits defines hygge as “a state of mindfulness: how to make essential and mundane tasks dignified, joyful, and beautiful, how to live a life connected with loved ones.”
If you do a quick search on Pinterest for “hygge,” you will find pin after pin showing candles, blankets, cocoa, and cozy little corners just begging for you to sit down and indulge yourself. Perhaps because Americans tend to subscribe to the glorification of busy, this has become our version of hygge. “It’s been slightly misconstrued as cosy domesticity, but it is much more deeply rooted in culture and resilience and making the most of what life has to offer you.” (Signe Johansen, How to Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living)
Let’s take a quick look at the keys to hygge.
Enjoying life as it is and finding contentment in the here and now. This imperfection might be a bookshelf filled with well-loved books or a corner covered with children’s toys. These things remind us that life is lived here, and that the people here find joy. The idea is to give yourself a break from the feeling that you have to do things a certain way.
Turning off your phone, forgetting about that to-do list you have sitting on your desk at work, not worrying about next week’s appointments- these are all essential parts of being present and mindful. Yes, it is difficult to “turn off” these things, but if you can train your mind and body to really relax, it’s possible.
Creating an atmosphere
Put together warm, intimate spaces in your home. Light candles, scatter blankets, fill your home with smells that bring joy such as bread baking or pot roast simmering. Harsh lighting is out, and nature is in. Surround yourself with green; grow herbs and plants inside. If you have a fireplace, use it.
Surrounding yourself with loved ones
One of the biggest components of hygge is being with family and friends in an intimate setting. Laughter, real conversation, good food- all of these can be experienced with the people you love. Perhaps this can happen in a local coffee shop, or maybe it will happen at home; regardless, embracing the idea of togetherness is at the heart of hygge.
I challenge you to find ways to create hygge in your life. What can you do that will bring more mindfulness and warmth into your life? How can you stop the hustle for just a little while and embrace hygge?