The Danish have given us much to be thankful for. Danish pastries, LEGO (yes, that comes from Denmark!), and bands like Aqua. Recently, however, they’ve become popular for something entirely new – an ideology or a lifestyle called ‘hygge’. In fact, the word got so popular in the UK and USA that it was on the shortlist for Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 ‘word of the year’, along with ‘alt-right’ and ‘brexiteer’.
What is hygge?
Unlike those rather heavy terms, hygge is quite comforting. Hygge doesn’t have a direct English translation, but the word that comes closest seems to be cozy. More specifically, a feeling of coziness, contentment and comfort brought about by enjoying the simple things in life. Pronounced ‘hoo-guh’ or ‘hoo-gah’, hygge comes from the 16th-century Norwegian ‘hugga’ meaning ‘to comfort’. Researchers believe that Denmark’s hygge philosophy is what makes them the world’s happiest countries, despite their brutal winters.
Hygge can be a noun, verb or adjective. It could be used in a sentence like, ‘what a hyggelig (hygge-like) afternoon this has been!’ Wooly socks would be hyggesokker and sweatpants would be hyggebukser. The word has long been associated with relaxation, gratitude and contentment. And there’s arguably no better time to get your hygge on than the winter months.
Ever spent a winter evening cooking indoors or had a cup of cocoa on a rainy day? Provided that you enjoyed those experiences, that’s hygge right there! ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, says that you can recognize hygge when you feel it. However, some of the key aspects of hygge are closeness, relaxation, presence, and comfort.
Definitively hygge things
Anything that makes you feel cozy and content is your personal hygge! Your favorite armchair, a reading nook or your sweatpants can all be hygge. However, there are a couple of things that are popular for their hyggelig qualities.
Unsurprisingly, Denmark apparently uses more candle wax a year per capita than any other country in the world. Says Meik Wiking in The Little Book of Hygge, “The closest you will ever come to seeing vampires burnt by daylight is by inviting a group of Danes for a hygge dinner and then placing them under a 5,000K fluorescent light tube."
If you’re looking to create a hygge vibe, turn off those bulbs and light the candles! Not a fan of open flames? Opt for a flameless one instead.
Curling up by the fire with a book or your pet? Definitely hygge.
Anything that invites warmth is hygge. This includes warm socks, sweaters, sweatpants, and blankets.
Comfort food and drink
Whether it’s hot cocoa, a hot toddy or a mulled wine, hygge is all about eating and drinking things that make you feel good. Breaking out a family recipe on a cold night is a great way to get hygge points.
Definitively non-hygge things
Since hygge is all about togetherness, presence, and comfort, the Danes tend to exclude those that don’t evoke these qualities from their definition of hygge.
Going out to get that one dessert you’ve been craving or buy the book you’ve been meaning to read can all be very hygge, but overconsuming is frowned upon.
Too much tech
Since much of hygge is about being present, phones are understandably not very hygge. You can’t be present in the current moment while scrolling through Instagram! Wiking also says, “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
Too many rules
Hygge isn’t strict, which is why it evokes happiness. It is encouraged that you indulge yourself occasionally with the extra slice of cake if you want to.
Now you know what hygge is – and just in time for fall, too!