What is hygge?
9 Ways to embrace Hygge
Despite its long, dark winters, Denmark is currently rated as the world’s most contented nation, according to the World Happiness Report – and the concept of hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’) is an integral part of Danish life. Hygge means comfort and a sense of cosy wellbeing and togetherness. It’s about cherishing yourself and delighting in simple pleasures.
No wonder, then, it was one of last year’s biggest lifestyle trends in Europe. Here are some easy ways to bring a little dose of Danish cosiness into your life.
1. Go for maximum comfort
Hygge means warmth and comfort. Not surprisingly, such a feeling starts at home. “Danish homes typically have throws or blankets on the sofa for extra cosiness, as well as lots of cushions,” explains Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly.
To be told your house is hyggelig is a huge compliment in Scandinavia – it means welcoming and friendly (something you definitely don’t need a shiny new kitchen to accomplish).
2. Create a nook
In Danish, what you’re after is a hyggekrog: that place in a room where you love to curl up with a book. “Danes love their comfy space. We feel relaxed, that we have control over our situation and we aren’t exposed to the unpredictable,” says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of The Little Book of Hygge.
3. Hide your smartphone
Make your hyggekrog a tech-free zone. Research by the University of Essex, UK, found that just the presence of a smartphone can negatively affect the closeness and connection you feel to your partner and loved ones and can lower the quality of face-to-face conversation – all things that are fundamental to hygge.
4. Leave work on time
In Denmark, spending time with loved ones is prioritised, and working late or on weekends is considered weird. “One predictor of whether we are happy or not is the quality of our social relationships,” says Wiking. To make sure you enjoy together time, aim to leave work as soon as you can, to spend more time with your partner, family or friends. About 20 minutes before you’re due to leave, wind down what you’re working on so you can walk out the door on time.
5. Ban TV dinners
In most Scandinavian households, getting together around the table to eat dinner and talk over the day is a must. “Sharing food is often the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of why certain populations have greater contentedness and longevity,” says Signe Johansen, author of How to Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living. “Researchers now increasingly acknowledge that the social context of eating matters as much as the food we put in our mouths. The company of others can help you to really enjoy your food.”
6. Treat yourself every now and then
“Hygge is about being kind to yourself – giving yourself a treat and giving yourself, and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living,” says Wiking. The Danes eat meat, cakes and pastries, but in moderation and – crucially – without guilt. It seems to work: Denmark comes 24 places behind Australia (and 26 behind New Zealand) on the most-obese country list, according to the OECD.
7. Create a dining group
While Aussies gravitate towards the pub to socialise, the Danes congregate in each other’s houses. Having a group of friends you can invite over regularly is wonderful, but if you don’t currently have that, think about joining a dinner party club (find one at meetup.com). “Being part of a group gives you a sense of place and belonging, and of being part of something bigger which is, broadly speaking, very positive,” says Dr Alex Haslam, professor of psychology at the University of Queensland and co-author of The Social Cure.
8. Refine the art of simplicity
The secret to hygge get-togethers is to make them totally unpretentious, says Johansen. “No starched white tablecloths, no elaborate dining ritual or fancy cutlery, just old-fashioned hospitality at its best.”
9. Light a candle
One easy way to make your home hyggelig is with lighting – the lower, the better. “No recipe for hygge is complete without candles,” says Wiking. “When Danes are asked what they most associate with hygge, an overwhelming 85 per cent will mention candles.” To be authentic, he suggests steering away from scented candles, which Danes consider artificial, and opting for natural beeswax.