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I didn’t know until I discovered the Scandinavian lifestyle of hygge (pronounced hoo-gaa) that there was a term for the way I’d been living my life for several years. Hygge, with roots beginning in Norway, was quickly adopted by Denmark as a way of life, and is practiced by other Scandinavian countries as well. Finland, Iceland, and Sweden too, have strongly rooted cultural leanings toward this comforting way of living.
Hygge is oftentimes described as a cozy setting, a get together with friends, practicing holiday traditions or sharing a great meal and enjoyable conversation with others. Sometimes it is seen as curling up with a good book and a favorite hot beverage warming your cupped hands. Preferably while wearing slouch socks and a cable-knit sweater with a purring cat snugged-up at your feet. All of these things can be, and are indeed, elements of a hyggelig mood. But this is not in essence a definition of the term. Hygge is not a thing, or a place, or even a specific decor. Hygge is a sense of inner peace, joy, well-being and satisfaction.
Have you ever found yourself among a gathering of dear friends doing something you love? Or sharing something that evokes fond memories and just feels natural and comforting? You turn to the person next to you and say, “Just now, I am in my element!” That’s it. That’s hygge. That feeling of peaceful happiness. And better yet, sharing that happiness with others whenever possible. In so many words, making memories. If you just think back to a joyful time in your past that sticks with you and creates that warm fuzziness inside… that was hygge.
So, now that you know what Hygge is, how can you begin to incorporate a little of it into your life? My guess is that if you are interested in simple living, you are already onto something. Here are my five easy hygge elements to get you started. These are, by far, nowhere near a comprehensive list. But, they are a handful of essential ingredients to set the tone for that inner-peace, joy, well-being, and satisfaction that can lead to achieving a natural balance of hygge in your life.
1 Allow Time for Hygge – As a rule, hygge is not something that can be scheduled into your planner. However, setting the stage and making time in your days to unwind and let go are critical to it. You will not experience hygge while running between errands or working late each night of the week. A healthy amount of time to settle your thoughts and steep in your surroundings through all five senses can, and likely will, be just what you need.
2 Create space for Hygge – You will want to have simple surroundings with clean lines and unmarred of clutter. Your space – whether it be at home, in the office, or some other location, should encircle you with only those things that cause you to feel warmth, joy, and peace in your heart. Items that reflect your interests and tastes. Oftentimes this goal is met with a wealth of white or neutral tones, bare wood, and simple furniture and decor reflective of Scandinavian style. (Think IKEA.) You will not want to neglect your lighting either. Ditch the fluorescents and go with a softer, warmer glow. Candles are a staple and the more the merrier. (You may want to use unscented or soy-based if you are lighting many, or at least crack a window if possible). Other lighting options include a crackling fire, strategically placed twinkle lights, or your Christmas tree if celebrating the holidays. If real fire is not an option where you are, battery operated pillar candles, or a faux wood burner or fireplace may create a similar ambience.
3 Get Comfortable – It’s hard to achieve a sense of hygge while wearing a stuffy suit, high heels, tight clothing or otherwise just plain uncomfortable apparel. It’s not uncommon to find the suggestion of cozy clothes: thick woolen socks, oversized sweaters covering ultra-soft “jammie” pants, and comfy pillows and throws tossed onto a deep-cushioned sofa or overstuffed chair. Snuggle in with some of your favorite things or people and you are ready for a hyggeligt time.
4 Invite a Friend – True hygge suggests the company of others. How better to share joyful memories than with loved ones and dear friends? Any time you can gather an intimate group of companions to share in board games, conversation, a round of cards, munchies, drinks, and desirably some good belly laughs, you will gain an unmatched level of hygge! This is not to say, however, that a sense of hygge cannot be achieved by cozying up alone with an historical novel, journaling, indulging in a favorite craft like drawing, painting, crochet or knitting and enjoying some downtime. Especially if you are an introvert like me and find yourself re-energized by a little quiet time!
5 Indulge in Some Goodies – Whether gathering with friends or partaking alone, the Scandinavian art of hygge is incomplete without a few sweet treats (or savory if you prefer). Cookies, pastries (a decadent cinnamon roll may be just the thing!), cakes, muffins, tarts, crusty bread with melty cheese, a steaming mug of creamy homemade soup… whatever is your ultimate comfort food or indulgent treat will serve well here.
So, invite a friend or ten, whip-up some tasty snacks or grab a few goodies from your local bake shop. Create the perfect lighting to compliment your gathering and discover the delight of hygge.
Some of my favorite books on Hygge living:
- The Little Book Of Hygge by Meik Wiking
- North: How to Live Scandinavian by Brontë Aurrel
- How to Hygge Your Summer by Jo Kneale
- The Hygge Attitude by Lars Kinter