Hygge has become a largely popular word since 2016, where the first books about the subject were published. Since 2016 hygge has become a global phenomenon. Being Danish myself, having a hygge life is a concept that is close to my heart.
I have read several articles written by non-Danish people, in which hygge is explained and pronounced in writing.
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I will admit, that some of these articles have come close to describing what hygge is to the Danish people, but being Danish myself, it is still so far off to what it truly means to us.
Is Denmark the happiest country in the world?
Denmark and its people are ranked in the top three of the happiest countries in the world again and again and year after year.
People all over the world are wondering why we Danes look at our lives more positively than the rest of the world.
Everything you hear and read about Denmark is true. We have a (somewhat) stable government, low levels of public corruption and crime considering other countries in the world and we have access to high-quality education, health care, and welfare system.
How can we pay an insane amount of taxes and still be happy?
Denmark has some of the highest taxes in the world (the average Danish person pays 39% taxes every single month).
However, the vast majority of the Danish people happily pay this amount of taxes, as most of us believe that higher taxes can create a better and safer society.
Most importantly added is how we perceive a cultural construct called “Hygge”.
The American translation for hygge is “cozy”, but personally, I would describe a hygge life more as an “intentional intimacy”. This intimacy happens, when you seek out safe, balanced and harmonious shared experiences with your friends and family. Or even with yourself on a cozy night in.
What does having a hygge life mean?
Simply having a cup of tea or coffee with a friend can be hygge, or it could be having a summer picnic on the beach or in a park.
Having an evening with your family with board games and treats is especially apart of a hygge life.
Hygge is when friends get together for a casual meal, a beer, and easygoing fun.
We also use hygge to describe a place or a setting. If your apartment is nicely decorated, we might say that your new apartment is very “hyggelig”.
If we had a good time at a restaurant, we might tell the hostess or host that we had a “hyggelig” time, meaning that we had a good time.
A hygge life is integrated as a sense of well-being. We use hygge when we are stressed, anxious or depressed.
How can a hygge life improve your mental health?
Hygge is about having a good time and feeling cozy, comforted and safe. Already it should have an impact on your mental health.
Hygge is especially used during the fall and winter months, where the days get colder and short quickly. Winter can have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing.
However, we also hygge when it’s summer. Danes love barbequing and spent time outdoors when the summer months hit our country. When we get closer to spring and summer, I will write some more articles about how Danes hygge in the summer.
I would dare say that most of us are indeed going to be affected by darker, shorter and colder days. Right? They make you want to sleep longer, don’t get up in the morning and eat more, because you might be bored. Hygge is the absolute perfect tool to battle that winter depression some of us get.
It is so important to embrace moments that bring warmth, comfort, and pleasures to our lives. Here are a few ways you can do it:
- Using candles all over your home for a cozy atmosphere
- Going for a walk during your lunch break to get in some much-needed vitamin D
- Getting cozy with a blanket, a cup of tea and a good book on your couch
- Enjoying comfort/feel-good food – like porridge and oatmeal
- Implementing self-care into your daily routine – like running a hot bath, taking a long, warm shower and using your favorite pampering products
- Wearing your favorite winter sweater or Christmas sweater, that you would never be caught dead wearing in public!
- Drink hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows
“Coziness” vs “hygge” – it’s not the same thing!
Americans have the concept of coziness, but it is still very far off from the Danish concept. I have read several studies, in which Americans generally associate one’s income with one’s happiness.
Income inequality is a general issue in the U.S., but there is also a general interpersonal distrust and distrust towards public institutions, such as the government and the media.
Please, do correct me if I am wrong, but so far that is my experience of the U.S. and Americans in general.
95% of Danes value trust in each other and their government. Hygge is, at its core, all about building intimacy with friends and family and having someone to rely on.
It’s about not being alone and being able to count on someone other than yourself and your immediate family. It’s about feeling safe and happy, even though you might not earn a huge amount of money.
Equality matter in Denmark. In cozy moments, we forget about inequality, power differences, and disagreements when we hygge with our friends and family.
Why is a hygge life important?
Even if I feel sad or annoyed I can still choose to spend time with my friends or family. Hygge is all about feeling calm, relaxed, soothed and comfortable and I have this feeling whenever I spend time with my friends. My family especially.
Having a hygge life is amazing for promoting an anti-anxiety and anti-depressive environment. All of our experiences come from sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, and it makes perfect sense that creating a calm and relaxed living space will help someone who struggles with anxiety become less anxious. Hygge also promotes a sense of well-being and safety.
Hygge is an essential part of any self-care routine.
How can you have a more hygge life?
Hygge is a social activity that can create a community in your daily life. But you can also hygge alone. Here are some of my tips to create a “hyggelig” atmosphere.
Does this count as hygge? Yes, they do! We even have a word for these in Denmark: “hyggebukser”. Again with the hygge, right? We use the word literally everywhere. You can never go wrong with hygge!
Basically, hyggebukser should be a pair of trousers/pants you would never be caught dead wearing in public, but for some reason, you always wear at home, whenever you get home from work or on the weekends.
Create a relaxing and “hyggeligt” space
We have another word in Danish called a “hyggekrog”, which is basically a nook or space in your home where it feels cozy to be.
My example of a “hyggekrog” has always been a window seat where you can wrap yourself in a blanket and read a book, drink a cup of tea and watch the world go by.
A Danish person would most likely tell you that candles are essential to any “hyggelig” atmosphere. We usually turn off the ugly overhead lamps and add candles all over the room.
Having something soft to wrap around yourself is a must. It can be a chunky knit, a weighted blanket or a heated throw. Just as important are oversized sweaters (I usually buy men’s sizes to make the extra oversized) and thick, fuzzy socks. Anything that’s knitted is a go.
Sweets, comfort foods and hot drinks
Spending tons of money on restaurant visits and food is not for everyone and I don’t do it most of the time either, but what you eat is also important to creating those cozy vibes.
In Denmark, comfort food typically might be pastries and meatballs, but if you are American, you can make that chicken pot pie recipe, you have wanted to take forever, or you can bake your favorite chocolate cake.
What hygge isn’t
Now you know how you can create a cozy atmosphere, but there are also some things that Danes consider as non-hygge/hyggeligt. This is also pretty important to keep in mind.
If I am eating out with a friend, I absolutely hate it, when they go on social media during our time together. If they are scrolling through their phones and not paying attention to our conversation, it really throws me off.
Hygge is also about taking a break from social media and spending some quality time with your friends and family. Turn off your phone for a couple of hours and simply enjoy being in the present.
Buying all sorts of products just to be on-trend
I am most likely going to shoot myself in the foot with this one, as I do link to several products in this article, but what the heck! I am going to be completely honest and transparent with you, as this really throws me off my radar.
To be honest, I find that the American and the UK version of “hygge” is really an excuse for companies to sell different cozy products to people. Hygge is not about buying a candle or a book in order for you to be able to hygge.
So, how exactly do you hygge without buying all the products meant for hygge? Well, it’s simple. Hygge is about creating a certain atmosphere rather than buying things. Buying lots of expensive stuff and products is the exact opposite of hygge.
Even though I don’t think you should buy tons of different products in order to do hygge, I still highly recommend buying the book called “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking as this book explains everything you need to know about hygge.
What are your thoughts on the Danish concept of hygge? I would love to know below…
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