Hygge. Not since their famous pastry has Denmark introduced something so sought-after and well-liked by all who try it. Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) isn’t just a Danish word you’ve seen popping up almost everywhere these days, it’s an entire lifestyle goal.
“The concept of hygge comes from the Danish word meaning ‘to give courage, comfort, joy,’” explains Pia Edberg, author of The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge.
Though winter seems like an ideal time to incorporate the practice of hygge into your life (particularly with Seasonal Affective Disorder setting in), it’s beneficial all year long. You can hygge alone, or with loved ones. All that matters is that you enjoy everything hygge has to offer.
What Is Hygge?
Hygge is “a concept of coziness, but it’s much more than physical or aesthetic comfort,” Edberg explains. It is also “about mental and emotional well-being and surrounding yourself with people and things that you love.”
This can include cozy activities, such as curling up with a good book and a cup of tea, making a hearty dinner (and good conversation) with a friend, putting your feet up by the fireplace, writing in a journal, taking a hot bath, putting on your favorite sweats, or having a snuggle session with your beloved pet. “With hygge, we create comfort, intimacy, and connection,” Edberg says.
“It is about atmosphere and experiences, versus things and possessions,” adds Sara Lasker, a life and wellness coach and master certified health education specialist behind the website Healthy & Hygge. In other words, hygge involves creating a life and a lifestyle that makes you feel most at ease.
The Benefits of Hygge
The benefits of hygge are endless, Edberg says. “It [can decrease] anxiety and depression, make us happier, calm us, give life a sense of meaning and purpose, slow time down, and create more connections.”
As mentioned, adopting hygge may be especially beneficial during the oft-dreary winter months. “Hygge allows us to embrace those moments and change our perspective by learning to enjoy this season more by deliberately creating more coziness and connection,” Edberg says. “Whether that’s lots of candles and evening chill time, or inviting friends over for tea and cookies, and not having to put too much energy or fuss into our plans. It’s OK to slow down a little, and sleep more. Winter may not have the same fun energy of summer, but it is a beautiful time to slow down and enjoy life’s cozy moments.”
In fact, the 50 best places to work in the United States (as rated by Glassdoor) all share something in common: hygge-like attributes that make their employees happy (1). While it might be a stretch to credit the hygge movement, it’s still good news that more companies are prioritizing work-life balance and building feel-good cultures. Consider this: Scandinavians, as opposed to Americans, “have stronger social networks and spend 5.7 hours less per week at work. Scandinavian countries are also consistently ranked among the world’s happiest.” (2)
By being more relaxed, and in turn, being more social, you can create a sense of calm and happiness, both in the office and at home.
How to Hygge at Home
Since hygge involves creating a feeling of comfort, safety, warmth, and connection, a hygge-friendly home should feel as inviting to you as it does to your guests, Edberg says.
You can achieve this through textures (put out your warmest blankets and pillows, for instance), lighting (use dimmers or fairy lights), bringing the outdoors inside (having plants, crystals, wood, and/or stone elements), and expressing yourself (hanging up art/photos that have sentimental value).
Your wardrobe can also play a major part in your hygge lifestyle, Lasker says. She prefers layering cozy outfits at home and going for comfort (especially when it comes to shoes) over “style.”
No matter how you dress or decorate your home, a big aspect of hygge is sharing it with others. For instance, you can have a cooking or baking night with your girlfriends or watch a sunrise or sunset from your porch with your partner. “Ultimately hygge is all about a feeling, rather than a visual aesthetic,” Edberg says. “It’s about not judging anyone or anything, and allowing people to feel safe as who they are, while also feeling physically relaxed and comfortable.”
What to Avoid When It Comes to Hygge
As with all lifestyle trends, watch out for opportunists who are trying to take advantage of the phenomenon and, in turn, you.
“It is good to avoid over-consumption or materialism,” says Edberg. “I know it is trendy right now to sell hygge products/cozy items, but that is the opposite of what it means to hygge, as hygge is about enjoying the simple things in life and making do with what you have. It’s more about reconnecting with your loved ones and being in the moment.”
Danish chef and food writer Trine Hahnemann echoes this sentiment, explaining that hygge is “all about authenticity.” So while there may be folks out there (e.g., Instagram influencers) telling you the “best” way to hygge, you have to find what ultimately works best for you. “It is about being and creating something real,” Hahnemann says. “It has to come from the heart.”
For instance, if you know someone who swears by lighting candles, but they give you a headache, perhaps dimmed lighting would better suit your needs as you slip on your favorite pair of comfy socks and listen to Norah Jones.
After all, this is all about you. “Remember, you are in charge of yourself,” Lasker says. “So, when things are not going the way you had hoped, step back, reflect, take a deep breath and say ‘no’ if you need to. Get back to your feeling of hygge.”