The reason behind there not being an equivalent in the English language is a source for debate. Perhaps the need for warmth and comfort owes to the long dark Danish winters, or perhaps enjoying simpler pleasures is a more common practice being that wealth distribution in Denmark means the majority of the population have their basic needs met. Possibly this explains the higher levels of happiness amongst the Danish too.
I, for one, find it particularly inspiring that a wealthy nation with such an enviable state of general happiness chooses to prioritise and indulge in hygge practices. Principally because hygge practices tend to be low-cost and low also in terms of time and energy. They are, in their essence, accessible for the majority.
With a long and possibly costly winter being faced by many in the UK, I figured it was time to take some inspiration from the Danes. It’s not important that Hygge is a Danish word and not a way of life, it’s only relevant that we need to interpret it as a way of life to understand the word. To me, that signifies that there is something to learn from our Nordic friends.
Not to mention that hygge may be enjoyed together. After a busy day rushing around, working, taking care of others and keeping the wheels turning, half an hour snuggling with a child or partner watching Bake-Off with a candle burning and a blanket on might be the reward you both deserve. A little hygge to help you remember that all you do is for a purpose.
A half-hour stroll in the woods, a cup of tea and 10 minutes of reading, meeting a friend for a coffee (even if it’s just in-between work meetings) will be sufficient and can make a big difference to your general happiness.
Time spent outdoors can be hygge. We know that being in nature has a positive effect on our mental health for a variety of reasons, not least being that fresh air awakens our brains and helps us breathe deeper.
However, when spending time outdoors is not possible (or preferable) then why not bring nature inside? Many studies show that having living plants in the home can make us happier. Especially in winter when the trees are largely bare and the flowers in retreat until spring, it can be uplifting to see winter plants grow and flourish in our homes. You needn’t be green-thumbed. Cactus are especially difficult to kill even when neglected. Although, when plants are out on display close to where we enjoy sitting or working, nurturing them becomes a habit.
Nordic tastes also tend to be minimal and favour nature fibres and materials, such as wood and cotton. Although this can be more expensive, this is balanced out somewhat by the requirement for less of it. Clutter is not a preference for the Danish, nor ideal for moments of hygge. Moving to minimalist more natural styles of decor may not only be desirable for la hygge winter but could also lead you towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Ambience and aroma
Touch can also be comforting so for winter hygge reach for soft scarfs, bulky blankets and woolly clothing. Natural fibres are desirable if possible. Remember that hygge is a feeling and so choosing items and clothing that spark comfort over style can assist in reaching the state of being described as hygge.
In fact, the Danish often refer to ‘enjoying hygge’ when having coffee or a meal with friends. Finding time to connect with others and enjoy the fruits of togetherness is essential for wellbeing, be this with one other person or a large group.
Practising intuitive listening is one way in which you can make the most of this time and further nurture your friendships.
What may have become mundane, such as staring out of a window or repotting a plant, can become hygge with a shift in mindset. As our lives become ever busier, it becomes necessary to see moments we take for granted as moments to treasure. The key to making these everyday occasions hygge is remembering to enjoy them. Noticing the taste of the coffee, actively listening to a friend, reflecting on the view you’re looking out on, rather than making plans or lists or worrying about what will need our attention next. It takes some practice but some of the other touches mentioned above can help us to reach this state.
Winter blues is not a myth. Darker, colder days can have an effect on our mental health and it’s no wonder that the art of cultivating happy moments has been mainstreamed by a country with one of the longest winters. Hygge is accessible but that does not mean it doesn’t have to be purposeful, at least at first.
So make time for winter hygge and remember to truly immerse yourself in the joy of it.