I have discovered recently “The little book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to a Happy Living” and everything I have lived for 2 years in Copenhagen came back to me: all those feelings of coziness, simple living, authenticity and pure enjoyment. I have never seen more happiness on everyone’s faces when the first rays of sun came out in spring. Even if it was still cold, people were out in the parks barbecuing and being joyful for the light they get to see then compared to winter. It felt amazing!
Thinking about it, no wonder Denmark is a country that for many years led the top for the happiest people on the globe. I know for a fact that one of the main ingredients to be the happiest nation is mastering the art of hygge.
What is hygge all about?
“Hygge” originally comes from a Norwegian term that means a feeling of “well-being” (Norway was a part of Denmark for quite a long time before they split). The Danish term “hygge” is used to acknowledge a special feeling or moment that is cozy, warm and just plain good. It can be a moment you enjoy alone or with friends, at home or outside, ordinary or extraordinary.
To the ones not at all familiar with it, imagine being at home for Christmas, near the tree, on a comfy sofa, surrounded by pillows and with candles lit around you. Outside is snowing and you are free to do whatever you want: hug your lover, play with your pet, listen to your favorite music or read the book you want. You’re free to do whatever you want to relax and be happy, while outside is dark and cold, but beautiful to just watch from the cozy place inside your home. That feeling of a just perfect moment and complete harmony – that’s hygge.
How to adapt a hygge lifestyle
Danes created hygge as a way to survive the cold, boring and dark days of the long winters. The simplest acts of lighting a candle while enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or enjoying a home cooked dinner with your dear ones are the things that make a difference in your spirit.
While hygge doesn’t refer to tangible things you can buy, such as a “hygge living room” or “hygge drinks”, there are ways to create a hygge lifestyle for ourselves. In the next lines there are detailed a few aspects that contribute to hygge. Small changes here and there that can facilitate your hygge environment, atmosphere and state of mind, contributing to reaching the Danish happiness level.
You can lower a bit the light intensity for a cozier and more intimate atmosphere in your home and work place. Notice how restaurants and cafés are already doing this in the evenings, for a greater comfort and happier customers, creating a sense of intimacy.
While with friends or even at home, turn off your phone and learn to enjoy the present moment. Leave the social media aside, and pay attention to what is happening and what you’re experiencing in the real world around you. If nothing is happening, enjoy the silence or start doing something for your soul that gives you satisfaction.
Use the smallest things to relax: enjoy a coffee or a tea, eat some chocolate, lit some candles, or talk to a friend about something small but nice. We’re not talking here about taking days off and going to a nice place on a holiday to relax. We’re talking about adopting the habit to find the little things that relax you, practice them and learn to enjoy them all.
If you live with a significant other or with a family, there should be no more “me”, but “us”. Do the chores together, cook dinner and make it all fun and easy. Then eat, sip some wine, watch TV together, or play a board game and enjoy the time spent together in a way everyone enjoys it equally.
Learn to think that what you have is the best for yourself at the moment, and be grateful for that. Be thankful for the little things in your life, the free ones, the experiences. These are the ones that really matter and happiness is related to how able you are to notice them and their value.
A cultural aspect common to the Nordic cultures is the no competition ideology. No one is better than the rest, and no one is bragging about their good grades, job successes or other achievements. You might find it a bit weird, but Danish people really believe that being humble is the basis for harmony between individuals, and they live by this belief.
I think this is one of the biggest steps into adopting hygge: to bring comfort everywhere you are and in everything you do. The way your house looks, the type of food you eat, where you eat it, when and where you take a break, what you do with your free time, whom you feel most comfortable spending time with and doing it often. It’s very much about sitting in your comfort zone, unless you really want to break it and do something new. You even get to wait to feel comfortable about the idea you’ll feel uncomfortable while undertaking some change, intentionally.
Take a break
Not necessarily taking breaks from studying or from your job, though those are needed as well. The words refer to the habit of leaving aside dramas and politics and focus on what really matters. On authenticity, simple things, long term plans and contribution. Building on the existing instead of rotting and digging deeper into the past and negative is an important ingredient to achieve hygge. Taking a break is also a matter of taking good care of your body and mind, as without being healthy and sane once cannot be really happy.
Friends work like a balm for the soul and help you live in the moment, build memories and contribute to feeling happy. As humans we’re meant to be social and feel connected to our dear ones, and this is one of the most important pillars to a happy soul and meaningful life. Good friends and real conversations contribute to making one’s world more beautiful.
Your house is your shelter, the place where you feel secure and comfortable. Once you get to feel this way in the place you’re living in, once that place holds memories and it’s the place you feel at ease, your house becomes your home. To Danes, a home is cozy, intimate and full of candles and nice decorations. It’s the place where the soul feels in place. And that should be your aim as well: to feel at home in at least one place on this Earth. This will bring joy and comfort to your soul and therefore contribute to your day to day hygge.
All in all, hygge requires being present, and the ability to recognize and enjoy the present moment. That’s the Danish recipe to happiness, and I believe we all have something to learn from it: be it with regards to our home, chosen atmosphere and attitudes, friends and state of mind.
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