Have you ever wondered how Denmark consistently rates as one of the happiest cultures in the world despite its long, dark winters?
It’s all about attitude.
The word hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) roughly translates as “well-being”. It’s a mindset traditionally practised by the Danes during winter to help bring a light, cosy and warm feeling to everyday life – even when it’s dark and minus 20 degrees outside.
Hygge is all about slowing down, taking pleasure in simple things and making time for the people and pursuits that bring you joy. Approaching each day with this mindset is said to create feelings of greater happiness, contentment and well-being.
It’s not hard to see why the rest of the world is embracing hygge. So, how’s it done? Here are some tips for bringing a little hygge into your life.
As you go about your day, try to be present in the moment and take note of the sights, sounds, smells and textures around you that bring you a sense of joy. This can be tricky as our busy minds tend to wander. But it gets easier with practice and can help develop a deeper appreciation of simple things we encounter every day.
Create a home environment that makes you feel good.
As the saying goes ‘your home is your castle’. An important element of hygge is to create a living environment that inspires you and makes you feel harmonious. While you may not have the spare cash to re-decorate your whole house, there are simple things you can do to create a space that you love to spend time in. Hang your favourite picture or piece of art on the wall. De-clutter! When buying a new piece of furniture, make sure you select a style that brings you happiness and comfort when you look at it and use it. Put your good sheets on the bed every day! Don't save them only for guests.
Find a healthy work/life balance.
This is certainly easier said than done, but simple changes can bring a little more balance and pleasure to your life. For example, nominate a day of the week where you leave the office on time and make sure you spend those precious extra leisure-time minutes doing something that makes you happy. This may not be possible every week. But take note of how good it makes you feel on the weeks that you do manage to get out on time!
Gratitude is another important part of the hygge mindset and it’s simple to put into practice. Being thankful, especially for the little pleasures in your day, can help shift your perspective to focus less on negative events. Try to adopt a glass half-full approach by purposefully acknowledging the good things that you already have and positive things that happen to you. This is a great way to boost your sense of wellbeing and contentment – very hygge.
Have a ‘go to’ wind-down routine.
This can be particularly useful after a difficult day at work. Rather than numbing stress by reaching for a drink and the latest offering on Netflix, create other simple go-to activities that help you wind down. Dim the lights, turn off background noise (TV, radio etc.), brew a cup of quality tea or coffee, have a conversation with your partner or a friend or melt your stresses away in a soothing bath. Sodoku or other puzzles can be good distractions that also sharpen the mind. The activity should be simple, bring you joy and draw your focus to something other than what’s happened in your day. We like to put our favourite cotton sheets on the bed and jump in with a good book.
Spend more time with the important people in your life.
Socialising with people who make you happy is what hygge is all about. Make time to catch up with your friends and loved ones. If this is hard, you could arrange to do everyday activities or chores together like grocery shopping, an exercise session, or invite a friend around for a simple, informal meal during the week. The sense of togetherness this creates will lighten the mood and help you stay connected with the people in your life who matter most.
Like to know more? There are plenty of books about Hygge available.
The little book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Live Well, Meik Wiking
How to Hygge – The Secrets of Nordic Living, Signe Johansen
Hygge – The Danish Art of Happiness, Marie Tourell Soderberg
A Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Charlotte Abrahams
There’s even a parody book!
Say Ja to Hygge! – A parody: How to find your special cosy place, Dr Magnus Olsensen