You may have seen this word floating around headlines on the internet or on a stack of books at your local bookshop. But what exactly does this Danish word hygge mean?
Like the best of words, it is difficult to pronounce and even harder to explain its true meaning. Pronounced "hoo-gah", there is no direct translation for it in English, but “cosy” comes closest, whilst still falling short. Perhaps the reason that it falls short is that hygge isn’t simply a word, but more of a feeling or philosophy for living.
Hygge is described as the pursuit of everyday happiness. In our relentless and fast-paced modern world, hygge is the deliberate approach to slowness and intentionality – to recognise, enjoy, and fully embrace the present moment.
What Does Hygge Look Like?
While it is Danish in origin, its essence is universal. In truth, there are no hard-and-fast rules – it looks different for everyone.
Everyone finds happiness in his or her own ways; sometimes it is just a matter of being aware of the good surrounding you – and other times it is consciously creating it for yourself and others.
But in Scandinavian countries, where frigid temperatures and dark days mark a significant part of the year, there are some reoccurring themes synonymous with hygge. After all, they have been enduring this type of weather for years, so why not take a lesson from the experts?
Adopt as few or as many concepts of hygge as you like. You may already be implementing some hygge activities in your own life unknowingly. Here is a handful to get you started:
First and foremost, hygge is about conviviality and togetherness. It means taking the time for an authentic pause during the day.
This might look like sharing freshly brewed coffee and treats with a friend. Or creating an atmosphere at home that is both warm and inviting, such as lighting candles and gathering around a dinner table with dear friends. One doesn’t have to be a martyr in the kitchen to embrace hygge either, it is about cooking a simple meal and enjoying it with good company and good conversation.
Embracing the Outdoors
Hygge isn’t solely about having a cosy night in. For Scandinavians, life takes place outdoors as much as it does indoors. No matter how uninviting the weather is beyond their front door, they layer up to seek solace in nature – to disconnect from technology and the constant buzz of notifications. Nature offers a chance to reflect, gather our thoughts, and gain a sense of perspective.
Underpinning hygge is a craving for simplicity. It’s a desire to pare down, free our time up from extraneous duties, and make space for the things that bring joy to our lives. Most importantly, to make the most of the time that we have on this planet.
How to Hygge – At a Glance
While there are endless ways to hygge, being mindful to the happiness around you is at its core. When we learn to embrace hygge fully, it can offer with it a sense of community, presence, and contemplation for our increasingly modern lives.
- Slow down to eat. Keep foods simple and nourishing and savour these moments.
- Everything in moderation. Scandinavians don’t feel guilty for enjoying treats.
- Live a physically active lifestyle aimed at feeling good, not necessarily looking good.
- Embrace nature in all seasons as a place to reflect on the very essence of what living is about.
- Make room for kinship, whether it is enjoying a meal at the dinner table, sipping coffee, or meeting for an afternoon of skiing.
- Hygge originates in the home and radiates into other aspects of life. Create an atmosphere that is cosy and inviting. Natural materials add a timeless element to Scandinavian design but still offer a warm feeling.
- Embrace simple rituals that require little effort on your part. Hyggling shouldn’t be hard.
While we maintain that hygge is more of a special feeling than anything, having a word for it makes you more aware of the small, special, everyday moments that are right in front of your very eyes.
View our video to help you better understand hygge: