Did you know that Scotland and most of northern England only sees a couple of extra hours of light a day as they do in countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark over the autumn and winter months? Those cultures have created ways to sustain themselves through the darkness where as we certainly haven’t, and unfortunately we pay the price. Even if you don’t live up north, the change in the seasons can have a negative effect.
The Danish word Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) does not have an equivalent word in english, but represents a whole culture of cosiness and wellbeing that may just be behind what makes Danes the happiest people on the planet. I’ve been researching Hygge in detail, and as it turns out it shares a lot in common with my wholeheartedly healthy philosophy!
What is Hygge?
Obviously I’m not Danish, so my understanding of the concept comes via my reading and one trip to Copenhagen and the Danish Islands back in 2007, but it appears to be a name given to an atmosphere and experience of cosiness, wellbeing and happiness. It’s sometimes also called the art of creating intimacy. The word originates from a Norwegian word that means wellbeing and also the word hug, hence why I’ve become so fascinated with the subject!
In The Little Book of Hygge the concept is broken down into a manifesto which includes:
- Atmosphere – especially having the correct kind of lighting
- Presence or mindfulness (think switching off your phone!)
- Pleasure – treat smart food!
- Equality – we over me
- Gratitude – being thankful for what you have now
- Harmony – no place for competition or bragging
- Comfort – your surroundings
- Truce – no conflicts
- Shelter – a feeling of safety
For me, Hygge is all about self care combined with connection with other people and creating an environment that feels cosy and safe. The Happiness Institute of Denmark have found that it may well be the Danes social relationships that make them happiest, and that Hygge puts small social gatherings at it’s heart.
Get the Right Lighting
This one was important to me before I’d even heard of Hygge, I hate ‘the big light’ being on and much prefer lamps when it gets dark! Hygge lighting is about creating a warmer light that feels cosy and comforting instead of harsh. Decorate your space with lamps (which don’t have to be expensive) and warm white bulbs. Fairy lights are also a winner, I have them everywhere well before Christmas to create that perfect Hygge atmosphere! To go one step further go for candle light or even a lovely wood burner, which is totally on my wish list to have installed one day!
Create a Hygge Corner
A hygge corner is a space in your house that feels like the perfect little cosy nook. Think cushions, blankets, low lighting and anything else that makes it snug. Use it for reading, journalling or meditating.
Make an Autumn / Winter Reading
Reading books curled up in your snug hygge corner is the perfect hygge activity to bring you a sense of wellbeing. Create a reading list and see how many you can get through!
Social interactions on a small and cosy scale are at the centre of hygge. Danes don’t tend to go out a lot in the colder months, so they socialise at each others houses. However there’s no fancy dinner parties to be seen, a hygge get together is about simple but good food, and is often cooked together with the help of guests.
I love how much cake, pastries and cookies factor into hygge! To avoid any guilt, make sure you’re treat smart and then just enjoy that simple pleasure of delicious food!
Join the Slow Food Movement
Taking a full afternoon to gently cook or bake something is very hygge. Cooking can be so relaxing and nourishing so look up slow cooker recipes or even try making bread.
Get Your Coffee On
Apparently Danes are Europe’s biggest coffee drinkers! I am a big believer that a warm cup of coffee is good for the soul, so if that’s your bag then enjoy! If you’re not a coffee fan then go for another warm drink. Hot drinks are super hygge, they even call some coffee Kaffehygge!
Treat yourself to some new cushions and a blanket, preferably made from natural materials like wool. A comfortable and cosy environment has a big hygge factor.
Start a New Tradition with Family
Another way to foster that social connection is by creating traditions. It might be inviting your circle of friends to the local fireworks display on 5th November or having a monthly board games night. Just do something that will bring you and your friends or family closer together and create memories.