November 3, 2017

Hygge: The Practice Of Contentment


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Hygge. The puzzling 5-letter word you’ve probably heard mentioned before, seen on Pinterest, or noticed on bookshelves. The term, originating from Denmark, has been trending so much that the word alone has made its mark by landing a permanent spot in English dictionaries. It’s a concept that is impossible to translate without losing basic elements of what it means. Hygge has huge cultural implications for the Danes, so much more than one word can infer.

To start things off, Hygge is something you feel. Most of us have probably already experienced or practiced it, but we just didn’t know it: A walk in the park to see the leaves change colour, taking a bath after a stressful day, inviting a friend over for a coffee and a chat. The word expresses a feeling in a moment that is charming, special, cozy, simple, and extraordinary. Culturally, Danes make it a priority to create and recreate these moments on a daily basis (or as frequently as possible).

The ways to pronounce Hygge in English vary from “hoo-gah” to“heu-guh,” and it can be used as a noun, verb and adjective, depending on the sentence. In Danish, they also blend Hygge with other words to describe things that have similar attributes. There’s a word for comfy sweatpants: Hyggebukser (Hygge-pants) and even one for the place in your home you devote to Hygge: hyggekrog (Hygge-corner) (Country Living).

If you are familiar with lifestyle-yoga (not the kind that’s just about wearing tight workout gear), this is a similar concept in that it is a mindset and a way of being. It urges you to consciously break out of your daily grind, take a moment to nurture yourself in a relaxing way and care for your state of mind. It elevates domestic and personal life to an art form. Hygge can simply be about disconnecting; putting pause on political issues, work, and stress to escape to the fictional world of your favourite book.

In Canada, it is easy to practice Hygge as the Danes do. They use it to help them weather through the cold winter months and stay positive on snowy days. When there is a blizzard, they choose that day to stay in and keep cozy, and do not force themselves to leave the house, battle the cold and attend to unfitting tasks. It is a relaxed approach to living and a way of looking at things. Hygge is an effective way of taking care of and cultivating your spirit during the cold, dark and sometimes isolating winter months.

Readers be wary: Hygge is not something to be made into another strict regime! It should be a natural extension of your regular life—positive habits, not something forced or stressed. There is a beauty in simple rituals and Hygge puts emphasis on that. It is something you are doing for you, for your well-being and the goodness of your soul.

Now it’s time to put aside your North American busy-bee attitude and get Hygge with it!

Create Hygge in your life:  

Many activities, simple or more involved, can be hyggelig. Hyggelig is the adjective to describe something that is Hygge!

Mood Lighting

One of the easiest ways to turn a room into a warm Hygge paradise is to lower the lights! This can be done in more ways than one. Firstly, overhead lights, like those hydrogen recessed lights most houses have, can be overwhelming and far too bright! Turn them off and use strategically placed lamps in the corners of the room to create a soft glow. What’s even better than that? Natural light. If you can sit by a window and read, make a fire or light some candles, these are great ways to recreate the ambiance of the “golden hour” (the first hour before sunrise and last hour before sunset) and make for an extremely hyggelig space.

Comfortable Corner

Danes will frequently have a corner of their homes (or an entire room!) devoted to Hygge. This is known as a hyggekrog. In it, they might have books, mood lighting and relaxing music, but most importantly, it has to be comfortable! Knit pillows and blankets are vital for creating the correct ambiance for this corner of contentment. You could even diffuse some essential oils and add some aroma-therapy into the mix. Perfect for enjoying a cup of tea or coffee as you read the morning newspaper or to wind down with a good book before turning in, taking a few moments in a nice nook of your home is adding Hygge to your day.

Content In Togetherness

Taking time to enjoy one another, and allowing your combined energy to uplift your mood, is another way to create a Hygge moment. Set the table for as many as you can and let the guests roll in. Invite friends over on a cold, dark evening for charades or other group games. Keep in mind that there is no need for extravagance: Hygge is about simple pleasures. Worrying about impressing guests and creating stressful work for yourself should be avoided. Hosting a potluck and sharing food is VERY Hygge! Gatherings shouldn’t be rushed and guests should be encouraged to linger. Hugs, cuddling, spending time with pets, and human contact are great ways to nourish your well-being and are super Hygge!

A Cup Of Cozy

Whether it be tea or coffee, sipping on a warm, soothing drink is hyggelig. It is known in Danish culture that you can cure the common cold with tea and Hygge! Need another way to make an everyday habit more hyggelig? Why not have your morning coffee in a special ceramic mug rather than a Styrofoam cup from work? If you’re the type of person who likes something a little stronger, a scotch or glass of wine, quietly enjoyed by the fire at the end of the day with a loved one is also a way to practice Hygge in your life.

Feed Your Soul

Hygge can be as simple as cooking or baking. Preparing delicious, savoury, filling meals can create a Hygge afternoon, or a Hygge meal. Cooking warms the home, can be relaxing and even therapeutic. Comfort food creates an ambiance of familiarity, nostalgia, and welcome. It can be a new favourite recipe or the oldest family recipe in your cookbook. Indulging in sweets is also Hygge–don’t deny yourself that extra slice of cake!

Homey Interior

Hygge is also an ambiance and an atmosphere. Your home can be decorated in a way that is favorable to that Scandi lifestyle. It’s not about the décor itself, but the environment you are creating. Taking time to work on making your home décor more calming and energizing is very Hygge. Bringing the outside in, or using natural materials like wood, is another way of creating a calm, relaxing, cozy home. No time to redecorate? Just put away clutter! Remove over-the-top embellishments or loud coloured décor. Subtlety and clean lines create calmness and quietness, and establishes the ultimate Hygge atmosphere.


Hoping you take pleasure and find happiness in your everyday,

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