I guess you have heard of hygge by now. Who didn’t, right? This past year the Internet was full of it. This Danish term made it to the headlines of newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post, Newyorker, Madame Figaro, etc. I had a vague idea what hygge is from blog posts and podcasts I follow but thanks to The Little Book of Hygge I got a better grasp of the idea and some useful tips on how to make any occasion more hyggeligt.
So, what’s the hype about? The Danish word hygge [: HOO-gah:] is not only tricky to pronounce but also difficult to explain. It doesn’t have a straight forward translation to English, French and many other languages. Sometimes it’s translated as ‘coziness’ or ‘well-being’, but more often its meaning is described.
Hygge is humble and slow. It is choosing rustic over new, simple over posh and ambience over excitement. In many ways, hygge might be the Danish cousin to slow and simple living.
Meik Wiking, the author of the book, is a CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Every day he and his colleagues look for the answer to the question: Why Danes appear at the top of many happiness and well-being surveys? “I think hygge and happiness might be linked, as hygge may be the pursuit of everyday happiness and some of the key components of hygge are drivers for happiness,” he writes.
But the magic of hygge doesn’t come by itself. In its essence, it’s all about looking for and creating hyggeligt moments, creating an atmosphere pleasing to all the senses, enjoying the company of family and friends, savoring good food and drinks, and appreciating what one already has. Furthermore, hygge is about little things, simple life pleasures and mostly about relationships. This way, it’s up to you to decide whether you experience hygge moments.
4 key elements of hygge
Think candles, burning fireplace, blankets, woolen socks, nature and flora, natural materials, and warm lighting. All these things enhance calmness, help you relax and be present in the moment. They are typically associated with hygge, and the book recommends to have at least a few of them on hand to help you evoke the right atmosphere at any moment.
Making your home or any other area more hyggeligt is not expensive, and it’s not about excessive shopping. It’s about using things you most likely already have, such as warm blankets or fluffy pillows and adding just a little something, like a candle, smell of a freshly baked cake or a nice plant. Try to create a small nook, a place where you can rest, relax and recharge, by rearranging and reusing the things you own and love.
Sharing an experience with a group of close friends makes it even more enjoyable and memorable. That’s why movie nights with friends, sharing homemade meals with family or coffee dates with a girlfriend are so important. Informal and fun events, with a small group of friends, where everyone contributes, and no one feels left out, are most desired.
But being solo can also result in a relaxing, enjoyable moment. Most important is to feel good, at ease, safe, and at home. It doesn’t matter whether you are with friends or alone, whether you are in someone else’s home, in a restaurant, outdoors or at your place.
Foods & Drinks
Foods and drinks are part of the hygge in many ways. Often the preparation of the food is the central element of a gathering. It can be anything from a dinner where everyone prepares one course to a themed cookout, picnic or barbecue in summer, or jam making. What Danes typically associate with hygge are comfort foods and sweets. Most hyggeligt drink, well established all over the world, is coffee.
You don’t have to prepare Danish classics, like Danish meatballs in curry, but if you would like, there’s a recipe in the book. You can make anything you like. Anything you crave. A meal that is comforting, maybe a cake you loved as a child. Pair it with a steaming cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and your hyggeligt moment can start.
Sweets are hyggelige. Cake is hyggeligt. Coffee and hot chocolate are hyggeligt, too. Carrot sticks, not so much. Something sinful is an integral component of the hygge ritual.
Hygge is usually centered around an activity, often shared with friends. It can be movies, hiking, resting by the fire on a beach, reading a book, going through old pictures and telling stories, cooking or baking together or anything that brings you joy.
The little book of hygge is full of ideas for activities for a whole year. The goal is to be with friends, catch-up on life, talk for hours, share a meal or a cup of hot chocolate, relax, have fun and realize how good life is. An event doesn’t have to be fancy, to be memorable.
So, hygge is a state of mind, and it’s up to you to create more memorable, cozy moments with your loved ones. The Little Book of Hygge can serve as inspiration or a guide how to do it. It lists ideas for all kinds of activities, provides recipes, and identifies essentials to help you bring more hygge (and happiness) to your life.
Our words and language shape our hopes and dreams for the future – and our dreams for the future shape how we act today.
Who is Meik Wiking
Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, an expert on happiness and an author. His second book, The Little Book of Lykke, will be published in September. And if you would like to learn more about the happiness research and how happiness is measured, you can watch his TED talk.
What are the moments or ingredients of hyggeligt time for you? What are the places, foods, people or activities you associate with fun, relax, feeling of closeness and belonging?