What Is Hygge Living (And Is It the Key to True Happiness)?
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Are you confused about the concept commonly called “hygge living?”
Well, hygge is a Danish word that has roots in the Old Norse word “hugga,” which means to console or give comfort. The ancient word is also the source of the English word “hug.”
Recently, the concept of hygge (pronounced as hue-guh) has caught the world’s attention, following the 2015 release of a book called “The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country” by Helen Russell.
Although it is now more popular as a lifestyle trend that features cozy interior decor or “homemade” recipes and crafts, hygge living is actually a way of life that requires slowing down and becoming more conscious of what is going on in the present moment — very much a practice in mindfulness.
The idea of hygge encompasses the act of acknowledging a feeling or moment as being cozy or special in some way. This could be while you're alone or with family, and it could be when you're home or when you're out. It can be practiced at any time.
But the question is, does hygge living actually hold the key to happiness?
In this article, we will explore this concept, give you a little bit of context about hygge, and help you decide if you’d like to implement this ideal in many aspects of life.
What Is The Hygge Life and Am I Doing It Right?
To better grasp the concept of hygge, let us first identify what it is not:
It’s not about the candles.
It is true that candles are an important part of making your home atmosphere hyggelig—in fact, Danes burn a shocking 13 pounds of candle wax per capita every year, which is more than any other country worldwide. However, while the candles do provide you with a bit of light and a lot of comfort, there is more to this lifestyle than just lighting candles.
It’s not only done during winter.
You can practice hygge living in the summer. Just do things that make you feel good. Take a picnic into the park or cozy up at a drive-in theater to watch a movie.
Sit around a bonfire on the beach and enjoy the sounds of the crashing waves while enjoying the company of loved ones. Do anything simple that makes you feel good.
It’s not buying stuff to get that cozy feeling.
Hygge is about creating a specific atmosphere—it is not about buying things. It is about developing an appreciation for the small things in life that make you happy. It is more about a simplistic nature of being, so you don't need to buy anything you don't already have to practice this lifestyle.
It’s not an excuse for being lazy or binge eating.
Yes, hygge revolves around being comfortable, and what you eat is an essential part of creating a cozy atmosphere. Homemade goodies, comfort food, and warm drinks are all extremely comforting things. However, the concept of hygge is more about comfort and familiarity.
Maybe you enjoy your mother's old chocolate chip cookie recipe to feel this sense of comfort, but that is only a small part of this lifestyle. Yes, enjoy that slice of cake that someone is passing over to you—but if you want to physically feel your best, you still must keep healthy eating in mind, so moderation is still key.
It’s not an excuse to get together to one-up others with your achievements.
Hygge is about feeling good, not feeling inferior or making others feel that way. It is about spending quality time with the people you love, and making them feel as good as you feel. It encourages both modesty and teamwork, and shies away from extremes.
Hygge embraces fairness, equality, and a need for consensus.
5 Ways to Achieve Hygge in Your Life
1. Develop companionship and good memories with close friends.
Hygge is the practice of making any given moment cozy and intimate. Typically, when loved ones get together for a social occasion, they do so to experience the connection, warmth, and joy of the event. Hygge is primarily a social undertaking, and best enjoyed in the company of other people.
The notion of hygge can also be used to uplift other people, so bake some pies and stop by a friend’s house that you haven’t seen in a while to spend time together and indulge in hygge living with each other.
Togetherness is a big part of hygge. This means putting your phone down and really enjoying the company of your loved ones. Host a movie night or get together with your closest friends for an intimate dinner. Go hiking with your family so you can all enjoy nature together.
Or, if you want to get extremely hygge, you can't do much better than creating a fire in the winter and cozying up to it with your loved ones. Fireside is the ultimate hygge sanctuary—especially if you include hot drinks and warm blankets.
2. Allow yourself time to relax.
People are always rushing from one place to the next. There is always somewhere that we have to be, and we are constantly thinking about the remaining things on our to-do lists. To properly hygge, you need to let yourself relax and give yourself time to take it all in.
You will always have something else to worry about, but hygge reminds you to live mindfully without rushing on to your next task. Take the time that you need to relax and enjoy your morning coffee. Or, stay in the shower for five more minutes in the morning to ensure you are starting your day off right. Take your time to savor the dinner that you worked so hard to make. If you don't, you may regret it later.
If you want some relaxing activities that you can do, start with knitting. This craft has a soothing quality to it, and you can be productive and relax at the same time while you knit things for your friends and family.
If knitting really isn't your thing, try doing some yoga. This will help you to physically relax your muscles, and it will give you some time to release your thoughts and tension, which is all a part of feeling comfortable in life.
3. Make time to connect with nature.
Although hygge living is usually associated with indoor activities, it also involves using your senses to have an appreciation for the sounds, sensations, aromas, and sights of nature. Grab your friends and go out to your local park to have a picnic or play a game of flag football.
Or, take some time to relax and lay out in the warm sun with your favorite book and an iced-cold drink to practice hygge living when it is warm outside. You can also take your meals outside into your yard to get the most benefits from the sun before winter comes and it’s time to wrap up back inside.
During the winter, you may not be able to find a lot of greenery outside. However, you can still bring nature inside your house to brighten up your living space. Open up the window shades and keep some potted plants inside your house to live a more hygge lifestyle.
You can also add wood accents to your home to make it more in tune with nature. Think wood floors, tables, chairs—all of these accents in your house will make you feel a bit closer to nature, which is a vital part of hygge.
4. Appreciate and enjoy the simple things in life.
Hygge living is all about simplicity. It is about finding joy in small, everyday moments instead of constantly seeking thrills or over-the-top experiences in order to feel joyful. You don’t need to redo your entire house to make it more compatible with a hygge lifestyle.
By making just some small additions, you can transform your moments at home from being lackluster to being intimate and joyful. For example, treating yourself to your favorite coffee, finding a new type of bath salt or bubble bath so you can relax in the tub, or putting your favorite pictures in frames around your house are all forms of hygge. All of these small things are significant because they can instantly lift your mood and make you feel good.
The unique thing about hygge is that no matter how hard you might try, you can't buy your way into it. But this is actually the point. When you have successfully achieved hygge, it means that you have slowed down and simplified your life.
Hygge is not about material things. Rather, it is a specific state of mind that revolves around comfort. It is up to you to create those moments by allowing yourself to stop and appreciate the things around you.
When you're drinking your morning coffee, or that moment that you first crawl into bed at night—take a minute to just feel the comfort and use all of your senses to create an experience for yourself that is memorable and makes you happy.
You can do this with anything that you do during the day. Just stop to recognize the joy of the simple things in your life. Surround yourself with only the things that really bring you joy. Hygge is never about extravagance, so take pleasure in the simplicity of your surroundings and use your home for living instead of a place to store your things.
5. Consciously choosing homemade over store-bought goods.
It should come as no surprise that Danish food has hit the global culinary scene, especially with the recent "farm-to-table" trend. When you choose to make your own food rather than buy it, you can know exactly what you are putting into your body, and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor if you are the one cooking.
Of course, comfort food is always a treat, but there's something that is extra satisfying about creating your comfort food from scratch. And the truth is, making staples like homemade chicken noodle soup is actually very easy. Once you get your ingredients together, the smell of your childhood will come rushing back into your house.
If you want to make things extra hygge, try out a recipe for ebelskivers. This cross between a pancake and a popover is a classic Danish pastry that is often enjoyed during times of authentic hygge. Or, if you are in the mood to settle down with a cocktail, whip up some blackberry glögg, which is an essential drink to anyone who is seeking warmth and comfort.
Final Thoughts on Hygge Living
You deserve to be happy. But in reading this article, you probably realize that happiness does not lie in the material things we acquire. Rather, it can be found in the quality of our relationships with the people in our lives, with nature and our environment, and with ourselves.
Hygge may offer an explanation to why the Danes are some of the happiest people on earth. One of the most important things to remember about this practice is that it can really be anything you want it to be.
What makes you comfortable? What makes you cozy?
It may be settling in by the fire alone with a book, or it could be a large dinner around the table, laughing with your friends and family. Whatever allows you to create a warm atmosphere and enjoy things that you find to be good is the secret to hygge.
If you want to see if hygge living is an effective way of achieving lasting happiness in your own life, the suggestions above will help you get started.