The Danes have a superpower. No, it’s not the ability to fly through the air – it’s hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-ga’) – possibly the biggest Danish export since Lego. There is no exact equivalent in English, but the closest approximation is ‘cosy’.
You may be thinking that an uncanny ability to make things cosy doesn’t seem like a particularly impressive superpower! Bare in mind, however, that it’s reputed to be one reason why the Danes are the happiest people on earth.
Imagine an evening sitting by a roaring log fire, feet up, shoes off, in a candle-lit room, drinking a cup of cocoa and wearing a thick woollen sweater – that’s totally hygge.
Many of us have such busy lifestyles these days and the cracks are starting to show. It’s no wonder then, that a lot of people are starting to look for ways to find a refuge from the frenetic, hectic world we find ourselves in.
Ways of slowing down, unwinding and generally simplifying our lives have come to the fore of late. Hence, we see the rise in popularity of things like mindfulness, The Slow Movement, and hygge.
So how do we emulate the Danes and make our lifestyles just that bit more hygge?
Spend time with friends and family.
Take our imagined picture in front of the of the log fire, add in two or three close friends, with laughter and conversation well into the night – now our scene is just about as hygge as you can get!
Connections with other people are things that earlier generations would have taken for granted. Our modern technology-driven world is, on the other hand, one of disconnection and alienation. For this reason we should make time to re-connect with people – to bring back conviviality – to welcome in hygge!
Hygge is all about appreciating the little pleasures. It’s about stopping for a moment and focussing in on the small things – things that give us joy and what’s more, often come for free.
Our frantic lives with their demands – only exacerbated by constant emails and social media updates – cause an incessant mental chatter. So our mental health suffers. Try putting down the phone and switching off the TV and pick up a book instead. Simplify, switch off and slow down. Find the beautiful in the everyday and the wonder in the mundane.
The perfect antidote to modern day stress is to go outside and revel in the natural world. Danes love nothing more than a country walk, a hike through the woods, a wander by the sea. Being close to nature is part and parcel of art of hygge.
The fresh air in our lungs, the sights, smells and sounds of the countryside – these are all things that give us a much needed wind-down and a respite from the hurly-burly of modern living.
As well as enjoying nature outside the home the Danes are big fans of bringing it into the home and this informs the way they arrange their houses. Flowers on the table, potted plants in the living room and natural stone walls all increase the home’s hygge.
Light some candles.
Danes love candles! There’s something about a flickering flame that’s guaranteed to create a warm, cosy feeling. As soon as we replace our electric lighting with a candlelit ambiance we get a frisson of pleasure.
Now if we add scented candles we’re putting the sense of smell into the mix. By using favourite fragrances we’re upping the hygge even further.
A phrase that perfectly sums up hygge is ‘stop and smell the roses’. This means slowing down the pace of your life and, yes, literally smelling the roses. Seek out the small pleasures, look for the little things that make life worthwhile. Be like the Danes – find your inner hygge!
‘Rider Park’ courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli