Are you familiar with the word Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah)? Sometime in 2017, I started seeing the word everywhere: in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and my personal favorite, this bitter article (in English) from The Copenhagen Post on how the British are leaving the European Union and taking the concept of Hygge with them. Bastards!
The concept of Hygge is integral to the Danish culture. It’s so important that it was recently voted one of the ten values the Danish people most value. (Other Danish values: freedom, gender equality, and trust.) So just what is hygge? I particularly like this explanation from The New Yorker:
“a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”
The closest English word to hygge is “cozy” and perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to it. Besides the obvious connection with my last name (Kozee), the word reminds of reading to my daughter every night before bed when she was a child. I’d tuck her in, smooth the covers, and scoot down beside her. And every night, she’d say with satisfaction, “Now, we’re cozy.”
Hygge is about feeling cozy and satisfied while the wicked world storms outside. But hygge doesn’t mean being cozy alone. Instead, it conveys a feeling of comfortable intimacy with the ones you love. You and your loved ones share a cup of tea and some comfortable conversation.
I love the concept of hygge so much that I made it my word for the year in 2017. And I’ve spent lots of time over the past few years compiling the best tips on making my life more hyggelig. I also came up with a few of my own. If you want to embrace this lifestyle trend to bring more joy and coziness to your life, then I know you’ll love these tips as well.
Embrace the Hygge Life Around the House
1. Surround Yourself Only with Things You Love
Danish homes follow a minimalistic, open style. Much like the philosophy of Marie Kondo, the art of hygge stresses that the perfect home contains only elements you love and have meaning.
This is the perfect time to edit your living space so you only see items that you love and have meaning when you look around your house
2. Bring the Outside In
If it’s too cold outside to experience nature, bring a little nature into your home. Using natural materials around the house will make your space feel relaxed and cozy. Indoor plants help clean the air in your home and flowers always provide a decorative bright spot.
Signe Johansen, author of How to Hygge, recommends following accounts that feature soothing landscapes and other natural elements on your social media as a good way to ease the stress of day-to-day life. In the hot summer months, I love to look @winter.stuff.daily. It feels like looking out the window at the cold winters.
3. Add Fairy Lights
Any time of year is a good time for fairy lights! Does anything add more magic to a room or help to create a cozy nook than twinkling fairy lights? Keep the holiday spirit alive all year long!
4. Decorate for Excess in Your Bathroom
The bath is one area where you don’t need to be minimalistic. Surround yourself with everything you need for the ultimate restorative bath.
I’m in the middle of creating my own very hygge bath for the winter ahead. I’m using this beautiful bath as my inspiration.
Here’s my bath so far. I added a few small things to amp up the coziness factor, but I still need to add more candles!
5. Candles, candles, candles!
“No recipe for hygge is complete without candles. When Danes are asked what they most associate with hygge, an overwhelming 85 percent will mention candles.”
I was a big fan of lighting a candle to make things cozier even before I embraced hygge, but now I know the joy of lighting multiple candles, dimming the lights and enjoying the warm glow of the candlelight throughout the house. Note: the danish way of enjoying candles is not to use a scented candle, as they consider the scent of the candle to be artificial.
6. Hot Drinks
Hot Chocolate and other drinks like tea or mulled wine are always hygge. You can’t gulp them because you’ll burn your tongue so you’re absolutely forced to slow down and savor the moment.
To be fully hygge, take some time to enjoy your tea in a pretty cup or mug and serve it along with a little something sweet.
7. Baked Goods
Baking requires you to slow down and pay attention or things can go horribly wrong. The Danish enjoy making their own sourdough rye bread, which takes at least two days to make.
And what could be cozier than a selection of amazing Bundt cakes? This Lemon Bundt Cake Recipe is the perfect companion to a cup of tea.
8. Homemade Soup
Is there anything cozier than a big batch of soup bubbling on the stove? This Coconut Curry Ramen soup makes the whole house smell delicious while it cooks and then makes a wonderful dinner, especially during the winter months..
9. Potluck dinner with friends
The hygge lifestyle is all about convivial experiences with friends. I know I’ve missed hanging out with my old friends and family during this past year and I can’t wait to start hosting dinner parties again. But you don’t want to be stressed out with too much work to prepare for entertaining. Instead, invite your friends over for a potluck dinner and enjoy the easy community.
10. Game Night!
Break out some board games and invite the gang over for some quality time of friendly competition. Sharing a good moment at home with friends is way better than hanging out in some noisy bar.
11. Hiking in nature
The Swedes have a saying, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Even if the weather isn’t ideal, you can still get out and enjoy nature with a nice long walk. Just bundle up appropriately!
12. Ice Skating
Skating on an outdoor rink can’t be beaten as a hyggeligt activity but indoor rinks can provide tons of fun as well. Another great activity to share with friends!
13. Sauna Time
I can’t think of anything more Nordic than relaxing in a sauna. I don’t know if you really sweat out toxins, but it sure feels like it and you’ll walk out refreshed and relaxed. We’re lucky enough that our loft apartment has a sauna in the bathroom (I know it’s crazy!), and I like to start each week by sitting in it for 30 minutes on Sunday night.
No home sauna or access to one through your gym? See if your town has a spa with sauna access and book a massage as well!
14. Swim in an Indoor Pool
I can tell you from experience how cozy and satisfying it is to go for a swim in an indoor pool on a rainy afternoon. My kids and I used to pop over to an indoor public pool near our house on Sunday afternoons. The pool was housed in basically a giant greenhouse so you could see the world outside while you swam. On rainy days, you could float around the pool’s tiny lazy river and feel like nothing would ever touch you.
I’m a sucker for any type of hot springs / relaxing pool experience and right now, this place in Copenhagen is number one on my bucket list.
15. Listen to Music on a Real Record Player
Some of my happiest times are on Sunday mornings. I’ll cook a big breakfast while my husband puts a record we love on the record player. There’s something warm and immediate about the sound that you can only get from vinyl.
16. Spend Time in Front of a Roaring Fire
If you have a fireplace, by all means, use it! An outside fire pit is also very hyggeligt. Just take your candles and your drink and plop yourself in front of it. If you don’t have access to a fireplace, perhaps there is a cozy bar or coffeehouse nearby with a comfy chair just waiting for you.
17. Curl Up with a Good Book
Perhaps the best way to experience the hygge life is to spend the evening snuggled in with a loved one (or alone) and a good book.
18. Have an Evening in with Netflix, Takeout, and a Loved One
Protip: The loved one is optional, but the takeout is absolutely mandatory.
19. Leave Work on Time (or Even Early!)
Maybe the Danish is one of the happiest cultures on earth because they don’t admire the seventy hour work week the way Americans do. When their 4:00 p.m. quitting time (I know!) rolls around, they leave to get on with the rest of their day. Why not schedule the activity that’s most important to you on your work calendar as an important appointment and see if the world stops when you leave?
Hygge Lifestyle Essentials
20. Cozy Throws
I still resent my daughter for taking the fur throw I bought for my self-care kit off to college with her. She says she loves it, though, and I’ve finally replaced it with this one for me. I can speak as an expert when I say that cuddling under a fur throw is the coziest feeling ever. I can’t believe I waited so long to replace my previous throw; it was an essential component for waiting out my regular midnight insomnia and I’ve missed it so much.
21. Comfy Socks
Comfortable, stylish socks are essential for the proper Hygge experience. Make sure they are soft as well as beautiful. The opposite of hygge is surely “itchy.”
22. A Great Mug
To embrace the hygge lifestyle properly, you’re going to need to drink a lot of hot drinks. Make sure your mug gives you pleasure.
23. Yoga pants and Leggings
You can’t feel hyggelig in pants with a waistband. I recently purchased these yoga pants from Amazon and I can tell you that they are the literal best. They have pockets! Pockets! Pockets! You can go out without a purse and not make someone else have to carry your phone! Athleta leggings also have pockets, but they’re a little expensive for me. At any rate, you must be comfortable in your pants and able to eat vast quantities of danish pastries without discomfort.
24. Fur Lined Anything
I don’t care what the item is – jean jacket, coats, leggings, slippers, crocs – it’s better and cozier when it’s lined with fur. Uggs are a classic for a reason and I wear mine starting embarrassingly early in the year and continuing until well past spring.
25. Hygge Books
I’ve been soothing myself to sleep each night with a variety of books about the hygge life. I’ve had a mild cold for the past week and I’m feeling very low-energy so looking at pictures of people indulging in comforting activities has been a fantastic tonic. I’m getting the rest I need while looking at pictures of other people cuddling cats and downing hot tea. Seeing all these folks relax has been giving me permission to do the same.
My favorite so far is How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life, which is filled with pictures of attractive people in attractive settings and includes delicious-looking recipes that I’ll try as soon as I feel up to dirtying the kitchen again.
Books about Hygge
More About Hygge
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