What is Hygge? (And why should you embrace it?)

In the past couple of years you might have started to come across the phrase ‘Hygge’. But what does it mean and where did it come from?

Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a danish concept encompassing a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life.

Getting warm by the fire after a chilly walk - that’s hygge. Reading a book with a hot chocolate while it rains outside - that’s hygge too.

Hygge is such an important part of being Danish that it is considered "a defining feature of our cultural identity and an integral part of the national DNA," according to Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. And with Denmark consistently at the top of the list of the worlds happiest countries, this obsession with all things cosy and enjoying the small things is definitely something to embrace.

What does it mean to live a hygge life?

Jogging bottoms you wouldn’t leave the house in? They’re hygge. Wrapping yourself in a blanket and watching the world go by - that’s hygge too. It’s about finding comfort in the small moments in life, and embracing and prioritising them.

Candles and hygge

If you ask a Danish person, they're likely to tell you that candles are the most important part of creating a hyggelig atmosphere at home.

Danes burn a whopping 13 pounds of candle wax a year per capita according to Wiking—more than any other country in the world. So turn off that unflattering overhead lamp and light some candles.

Denmark is a country obsessed with lighting. Lights are used to make spaces feel relaxed and warm. Because Denmark doesn’t get much natural light in the winter, candles and other forms of natural light are even more important.

The absence of light has a big influence on people’s mood. The Danes have realised is that if you light your rooms in the right way and create a cosy atmosphere, then winter becomes bearable (even pleasurable!).

A candle creates Hygge as it makes the atmosphere more intimate and cozy. The candlelight is not too bright and brings a feeling of comfort. It is a simple kind of daily moment.

What else is hygge?

Other things you can embrace to enjoy a hygge lifestyle are:

  • Fireplaces - bonus points for candles on the mantle or hearth

  • Throw blankets - think snuggly, chunky knits

  • Oversized jumpers, comfy socks... anything knitted really!

  • Homemade cake, comfort food and hot drinks

While winter is the obvious time for all things hygge, Danes practice this concept year round. Some ideas for summer activities include picnics in the park, backyard dinner parties, bonfires on the beach, and outdoor movie nights.

So what isn’t hygge?

  • Staring at your phone all day - put it in a drawer and focus on ‘togetherness’

  • Hibernating alone all winter - embrace quiet and cosy time but spending time with friends and family is a central part of the concept

  • Strict rules - hygge is all about keeping things simple and allowing yourself that extra slice of cake

Don’t feel like to embrace the concept you need to rush out and spend money - the whole idea is about embracing and appreciating what is already around you. If you want to be truly hygge, just remember to appreciate the simple things that bring joy to your life.

Instead of complaining about the bad weather this winter, light some candles and hunker down with a cup of tea and that book you've been meaning to read for months. Or if you're feeling more social invite your friends over for a board game night (or Skype quiz). Have fun getting hygge with it!

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