Already broken your new year healthy resolutions? Features editor Jessica Davis investigates the latest popular Danish lifestyle trend.
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Danish word for making ordinary, everyday moments meaningful or special, basically it’s a fancy word for enjoying the simple things in life. Whether it’s turning the mundane routine of making a coffee into enjoying a cup during a cozy evening with friends or lighting candles in your room to give it a warm glow, it’s just about being aware of a good moment, even if it’s just a simple thing.
Some refer to hygge as an “art of creating intimacy”; this can be with yourself, friends or your home. While there’s no one English word to describe hygge, several can be used interchangeably to describe the idea of hygge such as coziness, happiness, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance and simplicity. The Danish created hygge because they were trying to survive their long, cold, dark winters and the indefinable feeling of hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate and to therefore break up the day, months or years. With so many cold dark days, a simple home-cooked meal shared with friends can make a huge difference to one’s spirit.
By creating simple rituals without effort, the Danes treat domestic and personal life as an art form. They incorporate hygge into their daily life so it becomes a natural extension, rather than a forced and stressful event.Now, the simpler lifestyle is in demand by thousands as social media, magazines and celebrities are talking about it. According to the 2016 World Happiness Report, Denmark ranked as the world’s happiest country and this can be attributed to hygge. Meik Wiking, the author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, believes this: “The Danes are exceptionally good at decoupling wealth and well-being.”
“We focus on the small things that really matter, including spending more quality time with friends and family and enjoying the good things in life.”
Wiking, who is also CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, explains that hygge has been called everything from “the art of creating intimacy,” to “coziness of the soul.” In his book, Wiking explains that you know hygge when you feel it, but that some of the key ingredients are togetherness, relaxation, indulgence, presence and comfort. “The true essence of hygge is the pursuit of everyday happiness and it’s basically like a hug, just without the physical touch,” he says.
The whole idea of hygge is a new type of healthy lifestyle we haven’t seen before, as it doesn’t involve any guilt of not going to the gym every morning or having an extra cheesy pizza instead of a salad. Instead, you can cancel that spin class and treat yourself to a new pair of fluffy socks and have a cozy Friday night in with a glass of wine and candles. If, like me, you promised yourself 2017 would be your healthy year but you’re still feeling those extra pigs in blankets from Christmas, then start your ‘new year new me’ mantra with practicing hygge with this manifesto.
Hygge is incomplete without a collection of flickering light, as 85 per cent of Danes answered candles when asked what they associate most with hygge. They light their homes with golden flames in each rooms, as well as business boardrooms and school classrooms. For some, this would fill our heads with ‘fire hazard’ alarm bells, but this is part of the everyday for Danes, as they burn about 13 pounds of candle wax every year.
Hygge is all about appreciating the here and now, so turning off your laptop, phone or tablet is essential to appreciate the full effect of hygge. According to a study last year, we spend almost an entire day a week just on Facebook. Experts say this is due to FOMO, on what friends are getting up to and users tend to check the app most before they go to bed. Hygge focuses on your own surroundings, meaning you compare yourself less to others and focus on your own personal happiness and environment.
Whether you love chocolate cake or chicken nuggets, hygge says indulging in our favourite foods is good for us. So say yes to that glass of red and sit back and enjoy. It’s suggested that the high level of meat, cakes, and coffee consumption in Denmark is directly linked to hygge. From a culinary perspective, hygge is about giving you a break from the demands of healthy living, but taking time to bake, savour, and enjoy the process of it. A hearty stew or a bowl of popcorn is recommended, shared from the same bowl, and other sharing foods that feel like a true indulgence—like a food hug, if there were such a thing.
This involves changing your perception towards more ‘we’ over ‘me’. Hygge says that we can get happiness from sharing tasks with others and equalling the workload. Helping can go a long way and is even better when someone else returns the favour.
Be thankful for everything you have, whether it’s the luxury of hot food or the health of your friends and family. Be considerate of others who don’t have it as good and you will learn to appreciate your own surroundings.
It is easy to get lost in other peoples achievements and put yourself down as a consequence. Instead remind yourself everything is not a competition and likewise don’t brag about yourself and your own achievements; your family and friends already like you so there is no need to massage your own ego.
Get comfy; take a break because it is all about relaxation. Hygge calls for a comfy blanket [you don’t have to ask me twice – Ed.] and curling up with a good book. Fluffy socks, leggings, a jumper, even having your hair out of your face is suggested to feel the most hygge. Lazy Sundays with no guilt will never feel so good.
Practicing hygge means a drama free zone. Free yourself from everyday gossip and drama and focus on the important things.
Hygge encourages you to build on existing relationships and building narratives with the people you love and care about the most. Reminiscing old times with your close friends is good for the soul and fills you with happy nostalgic memories.
Your space is filled with security and peace. Wiking suggests a hyggekrog, which roughly translates to “a nook.” So, create your safe place to snuggle up with a warm blanket, a good book and sip tea.
When life feels a little bit stressful, hygge is a way to practice self-care that feels sincere. It’s not preachy, nor does it tell me to rid yourself of chocolate, Netflix or fill your time with painful gym workouts. And the best part is that it doesn’t cost a fortune to follow the life style—you can simply pull on a pair of comfy pajamas and know that they’ve kindled the ultimate happiness. Hygge is a whole culture of wellbeing that promises change from the stress of everyday life into a more calm, accepting and chilled out way of life.