A couple of weeks ago I listened to a podcast showcasing Meik Wiking and his book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happing Living. His book and the concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is evidently taking Europe by storm (a precursory search of Pinterest confirmed this) and is now making its way over the Atlantic to America.
What is hygge?
Wiking says there’s no direct translation but it involves coziness, togetherness, a sense of well being and comfort. According to Wiking, “hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
And hygge truly seems to work. Despite the fact that Denmark has a dreadfully dark and depressing winter season (there’s less than 4 hours of sunlight per day during the months of October-March), Denmark consistently rank as one of the happiest countries in the world.
What does it take to create this hygge atmosphere? Can it be reproduced in other parts of the world?
Not to worry. For all the vagueness of the translation, what comprises hygge is incredibly specific. Here’s a short list of what you’ll need to get your hygge on:
- Light: white, unscented candles and crackling fires are very hygge. So is ambient, diffuse light. Bright, sterile overhead light is not.
- Good snacks: cookies, cakes, chocolate, tea, hot chocolate or mulled wine. While they may not be great for your waistline, these sweet treats are the epitome of cozy eating.
- A Hyggekrog: this is your ultimate escape: a cozy nook, window seat or chair where you can snuggle up and give yourself a few minutes of nurturing. Make sure your hyggekrog is stocked with cuddly blankets, soft pillows, good books, slippers and some snacks (see #2).
- Time with friends: hygge’s guidelines on social interaction are a introvert’s dream. A cozy gathering should only be with close friends and never more than six people. Light some candles, make a simple meal together, play board games or just chat and enjoy warm drinks.
- Big, comfy woolen socks: cold feet are so not hygge.
- Things made out of wood: hygge is all about texture and simplicity. And what’s more elemental than wood? Whether it’s the smell of wood burning in the fireplace, wooden bowls or wooden floors, the textures and colors are soothing to the soul. Elements from the outdoors are welcome too: leaves, twigs, pinecones. As Wiking says, “Basically you want to think: How would a Viking squirrel furnish a living room?”
- Blankets and cushions: soft, warm, chunky and plentiful. Find textiles that your want to run your fingers through. Have a basket with extra blankets and cushions for your guests so you can all get cozy together.
- Your favorite Hot Chocolate Press book: This one’s mine, not Wiking’s, but since Hot Chocolate Press specializes in books that “warm your heart, nourish your soul and spark your sense of adventure,” it’s a perfect fit with hygge.
Winter has always been a season that I dread, especially the doldrum time of January through March, but after reading Wiking’s book I was inspired. Just a few days ago, I lit a dozen candles, started a fire in my fireplace, set out a plate of cookies and pot of tea. I set up the chessboard for my husband and son and invited my daughter to come down and read next to me. I curled up with Jenny Sundstedt’s Passing Through and enjoyed a truly refreshing and relaxing evening.
It’s official: I’m hooked on hygge!
Check out our Hygge board on Pinterest.
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