In search of hygge (and how to pronounce it)
The Winter Solstice, the first official day of winter, is the shortest day of the year with the longest night. I dread waking up, heading off to work, and coming home in the dark of early nightfall. In the Pacific Northwest, where I live, the sun hides for days heightening the darkness.
As I write, rain pours outside of my window. I am seated in my kitchen nook with a mug of tea wrapped in a blanket. My natural inclination is to turn inward this time of year. The busyness of the holiday season forces many of us to do the opposite. Do you feel the same pull?
Here’s where hygge comes to my rescue. It’s my proven antidote for cold, dark winters and uncertain or stressful times. Have you heard of the Danish concept of hygge?
No? Grab a warm beverage and light a candle before you read on. Both are very hygge.
What is hygge?
The practice of creating cozy and congenial environments that promote emotional well-being.
The Danish concept, pronounced HOO-gah, is both a noun and verb. It can also be an adjective, hyggelig, pronounced HOO-gah-lee.
I cannot remember when I first discovered the hygge, but it was love at first site. The concept, which was familiar, soothed my soul even if I could not pronounce it.
Hygge includes many feelings that are important to me. Comfort, ease, cozy, authentic, delight, peaceful, harmony, nourish, serene, and connection. All these words are wrapped up in the cozy blanket of hygge.
How to create hygge together
I try to find ways to belong to the moment and to each other. I focus on the quality of my relationships and try to be authentic and invite intimacy.
Here are some ideas:
- Take a coffee or tea break with friends, family or colleagues and chat.
- Step away from your desk and eat your lunch with others.
- Read to your child at bedtime.
- Play a board game or piece together a jigsaw puzzle with friends or family.
- Sit down and share food with others making a conscious effort to enjoy both. Bonus points for adding candlelight. Make sure to leave controversial topics and drama at the door.
- Put your feet up on an ottoman and gaze at a fire together.
- Take a walk in the woods with loved ones.
How to hygge alone
I find deep stability and contentment by practicing hygge alone too. Here are some of my favorites:
- Watch the sun rise or set being fully present in the moment.
- Gaze at a full moon.
- When in doubt, light a candle.
- Read tucked into bed or under a cozy blanket. Bonus points for a fire in the fireplace or a candle burning nearby.
- Focus on the ritual of making your tea or coffee. Take the time to enjoy the entire mug without distraction.
- Learn from cats and take a nap in the sun.
- Write in a journal or take time for contemplation.
- Make something — crafts, knitting, baking.
- Practice yoga — especially restorative or yin yoga.
- Put on a cozy sweater, wrap a scarf around your neck, or pull on a warm pair of socks.
- Luxuriate in a hot bath.
- When you come in the door, take off your shoes and throw on a pair of slippers.
Hygge all year long
The slower, quieter rhythm of winter begs for hygge to soothe my soul. But I practice hygge all year long by paying attention to the subtle changes in nature and cycles of the season.
Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate hygge in other seasons:
- In the fall, I walk where I can enjoy the fall color and kick some leaves. Drinking apple cider is also a must.
- In the spring, I try to enjoy the flowers in bloom, especially the cherry blossoms.
- In the summer, I find every excuse to be outside. I love eating outside or sitting on my front porch to read a book. Visits to Farmer’s Markets are also a must.
I’ve read several books about hygge. My favorite is The Little Book of Hygge: Danish secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. I leave you with the author’s hygge manifesto. Take his word on this. He is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.
Atmosphere: Turn down the lights
Presence: Be here now. Turn off the phones.
Pleasure: Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
Equality: “We” over “me.” Share the tasks and airtime.
Gratitude: Take it in. This might be as good as it gets.
Harmony: It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements.
Comfort: Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation.
Truce: No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day.
Togetherness: Build relationships and narratives. “Do you remember the time we…?’
Shelter: This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.
Here’s to finding pleasure in the small things in life. Here’s to discovering your favorite ways to feel hygge. May your ordinary feel extraordinary.
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