Hygge Danish concept of coziness

Hygge: The Danish Concept of Coziness

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Everyone loves to be cozy and comfortable. Imagine settling in to read a book or watch a movie on a comfortable couch, bolstered with pillows and covered up with an afghan with a warm drink nearby, maybe snuggling with a pet and enjoying the quiet and solitude.

Work, stresses and the outside world are still there, but distant as you relax and reflect. That’s the idea of Danish Hygge.

What Is Hygge?

Hygge (pronounce it “hue-guh”) is roughly translated from Danish as “well-being” and is the Scandinavian word for “a form of everyday togetherness,” or “a pleasant and highly valued everyday experience of safety, equality, personal wholeness and a spontaneous social flow.”

It’s believed that the word is derived from “hug,” which in turn springs from the 16th century word “hugge,” which means “to embrace. It corresponds to the Dutch word gezelligheid,or Gemutlichkeit in German, koselig in Norwegian and mysig in Swedish.

Regardless of the language or the culture, it means that you’re not preoccupied with everyday stuff, you’re feeling contented and secure and safe.

This hygge definition might seem a little loose and vague, but in Denmark, hygge is practically a way of life.

It manifests itself in things like candlelight (the Danes go through more candles per capita than any other country in Europe), dinner with friends, fresh-brewed coffee or freshly-baked bread. It’s become such a popular idea in Europe that some colleges are actually teaching courses in hygge, along with Danish language curriculum. Danes look forward to the degree of hygge they might expect at a social event, talk about hygge things that might be happening and enjoy recounting the hygge-like time they had.

Denmark regularly ranks among the happiest countries in the world, and there is a whole list of reasons why that’s true. It has to do with contentment and comfort and gratitude for the good things in life. Hygge is reflected in the homes of Danes, with relaxed and warm spaces that are accented by candlelight and low-wattage lamps that set the mood.

It’s such a part of the culture that doctors sometimes prescribe tea and hygge for a cold or flu.

Hygge is a great counter to the bleak, dreary weather and 20-hour winter nights that are part of life in Denmark. After all, when the French and Germans are still enjoying autumn weather, the Danes and Scandinavians are already starting to hunker down and prepare for a long, punishing winter. When things are that tough and the thermometer hits 20 below (or worse), people tend to cocoon and enjoy hygge – and also know how to cooperate, pull together and be nicer to each other. At the same time, though, hygge is a culture of being nicer to one’s self.

Hygge and Psychological Well-Being

Studies have shown that people who engage in self-care and can be kinder to themselves have better overall mood and mental health. Too many times, we tend to be too self-critical and beat ourselves up over our mistakes and shortcomings.

A little hygge time helps put us in a better place to be more appreciative and grateful for our own well-being, and we can then use that emotional capital to lift up those around us and invest a little in their own happiness. Family and friends and acquaintances are so important, and the strength of those bonds all figure so much into our own psychological wellness.

Over and over, it’s been shown that that connectedness has a way of spreading and multiplying among groups and neighborhoods and communities.

In other parts of the world, we may value our hygge time and enjoy it when we can. The big difference, though, is that in Denmark it’s a priority and a central part of the culture and the way of thinking.

How to Get Some Hygge In Your Own Life

Now that we’ve established the meaning of hygge (sort of), here are some ideas on how to embrace that kind of contentment and coziness in your own life:

  • Enjoy the sensation of sliding between crisp, clean sheets right after you take a shower.
  • Eat a donut or a pastry and don’t feel guilty about it.
  • Have a glass of wine and savor its taste with every swallow.
  • Go for a brisk walk on the first cool day of fall, or the first sunny day of springtime. Breathe deeply and enjoy the fresh air.
  • Meet up with friends for happy hour and dinner, and let it turn into a little informal party back at your house.
  • Get comfortable and spend some quiet time reflecting on what has come your way and what you have to be grateful for.

Try a little hygge in your own life. Chance are you’re going to like it.


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