As far as I can remember, happiness has always been a source of wonder for me. Last year, a new concept came to the awareness of the general public, the Danish principles of happiness called Hygge. I am a bit late to the party, but I have been thoroughly seduced by this concept and today I’d like to share with you the basic principles of this art de vivre.
Hygge has no direct translation
Hygge, pronounced hoo-gah, is a complex concept coming from Denmark. Hard to describe in a few words, it doesn’t have a direct translation in any other language. It describes a feeling of well-being that you can experience in a variety of situations. A few elements can contribute to this well-being and I will try to help describe the concept by sharing these elements.
The Basics of Hygge
1. Soft Lighting
The Danes are the largest consumers of candles in Europe. They would say that the soft glow of a lighted candle can bring Hygge to any situation. For a hyggleligt ambiance, choose diffused lights similar to the dawn of day. Harsh lighting does not create a cozy atmosphere so stay clear from neon lighting and choose multiple light sources across the room. The lighting of a bar or restaurant will affect your experience and can contribute to a hyggeligt moment.
2. Good Company
You can definetly experience Hygge by yourself, while reading in a comfy chair with a nice cup of tea. But the Hygge is even better when shared with a bunch of friends, playing board games on a chilly November evening, or cuddled in a nice blanket with your family watching reruns of your favorite TV show. Sharing a meal with a few close relatives is very hyggeligt, especially if the meal has simmered all day on the stove.
3. Comfort food
Speaking of which, food can be highly hyggeligt. To contribute to the Hygge, a meal has to take time to cook and be simple rather than fancy. Eating raclette or fondue with your friends on a Friday night is totally hyggeligt. The Danish meals are not particularly good for your waist, but contribute to your happiness and well-being. The Danes are huge into pastries and candies of all kinds. It is not surprising that one pastry takes its name from the people of Denmark.
Hot beverages especially are considered hyggeligt. Any tea drinker will tell you that enjoying a nice cuppa can make you feel so good. The Danes’ favorite hot beverage is coffee. Any occasion is good for them to share a hot cup of Joe. If you watch Danish TV series, you will notice how coffee takes front and center place in their everyday lives.
4. Comfy clothes
The Danish weather is often compared to a long November that would last all year. The weather is cold and humid and the sun is almost absent in the winter months. This harsh weather does not seem to play a role in the general happiness level of the Danish population, as Denmark figures each year in the first rank of every happiness surveys. In the concept of Hygge, feeling warm when the weather is cold takes a huge place. Comfy sweaters, warm and soft shawls, as well as good wool socks are a staple of the Danish wardrobe.
Christmas and Hygge
Christmas is the most hyggeligt time of year. Spending time with our families, often returning to our hometown, sharing amazing food and sweets, giving presents to our loved ones… All of that contributes to the Hygge. There’s a great part of nostalgia into the Hygge concept, and Christmas is a great time to remember our youth and great times enjoyed with our families.
Simple, yet so cozy
You do not need to live in Denmark to experience Hygge. As you can see, simple things in life can contribute to this warm feeling of well-being. This morning, I was drinking a nice cup of espresso, curled up in my reading chair covered in a soft blanket, reading a book while everybody was still asleep. This moment was Hygge as can be and I wanted to stop time and feel like this forever.
Recreate the Hygge at will
It is easy to create a part of Hygge into your days. Invite a few friends over and cook a nice meal together. Boil a pot of tea and light a candle while you read your Sunday newspaper. Go out and ice skate with your kids on a cold winter day and share a hot cocoa back home. Slip into a hot bath after a hard day’s work. Simple things in life can create beautiful Hygge moments.
After learning more about the Danish concept of happiness, I am realizing that, even though I knew nothing about it, I’ve been living the Hygge on a daily basis, trying to incorporate it into my schedule as often as I can. I like to share a pot of tea with my best friend on a Monday night, take a hot bath with a book, spend time in my library surrounded by lighted candles, cuddling with my cat under the blankets on lazy weekend morning… I’ve been living the Hygge all this time without knowing it was a thing!
To learn more about the Hygge
If you are interested to learn more about the Danish art of happiness, I highly suggest you check out Dr. Miek Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Beautifully illustrated and heart warming, this handy little book will inspire you to bring more Hygge into your daily life.
What do you think of this concept? Want to try it? Let me know in the comments below what little Hygge thing you’ll try this week!