Lessons on living well, inspired by the Danish concept of hygge.
Chances are you’ve heard of hygge (pronounced hue-gah) – the Danish art of living well. Woven into the fabric of daily life in Denmark, hygge is a way of being that gives you a feeling of comfort and connection. Even if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve certainly experienced it. Sitting on the sofa, snuggled in layers of blankets reading your favourite book. Picking up a conversation with a dear friend you haven’t seen for months and chatting like no time has passed. The flickering glow of a candle in your dining room. A bowl of deliciously sweet strawberries. Sitting in the kitchen, the benches covered in flour, eating leftover cookie dough with your children. Savouring the delicious aroma of a spicy, hot cup of chai in the evening. These are all examples of hygge. Hygge moments are unique to all of us, if something makes you pause long enough to think, “I can’t think of anywhere else I want to be right now”, that is hygge.
Essential elements of hygge
To create a feeling of hygge in your home think about what feels warm and cosy, an environment where you feel safe, comfortable and content. A well loved armchair and layered, natural textures like knitted blankets and jumpers where you'd happily spend hours curled up with a hot chocolate. A hygge home should feel comfortable, without clutter or fussiness. When choosing items for your home, choose objects that are beautifully made, from natural materials. Textures like wood, handmade ceramic, linen and wool will make your ordinary objects feel extraordinary when you use them. We have a connection to things handmade that can't be replicated by similar items mass produced. You can’t have hygge without the right lighting, overhead fluro bulbs are a no-no, candlelight is perfect to create a cosy atmosphere as does a string of lightbulbs in the garden.
To create your own feelings of hygge at home, start by slowing down enough to be present.
To have a feeling of hygge we need to be able to be still. Having the thought that there’s so much to do will ruin the joy to be found in the present. If you’re too distracted to be in the moment, no amount of woollen throws and tea light candles will bring you a lasting feeling of contentedness. Carve space into the day to do things well, one at a time. Too many demands will cause you to feel scattered and distracted. Slow down and guard your time well. Turn off your phone at dinner and make it a rule to not check your work emails outside of work.
"It must be emphasised that hygge entails commitment to the present moment and a readiness to set distractions aside" ~ Judith Freidman Hanson
If you’re time poor and your to-do list is the first thing on your mind when you wake up, you’re probably thinking, ‘I don’t have time to slow down!’ Start small by creating one new habit to be in the moment each day. Think of one daily ritual that you can create for yourself that will slow you down. It only has to be ten minutes. Try turning your phone to airplane mode, and put it out of reach. Make a cup of tea (or coffee, or chai) and don’t do anything else while it’s brewing. Bring your awareness to the enticing smell and close your eyes when you take your first sip. Something else you could try is before reaching for your phone in the morning, read a few pages of a book you’re enjoying before you get out of bed. It prolongs that feeling of being cosy and warm under the blankets.
Invite your friends over.
While it's perfectly lovely to hygge alone, when it's raining and cold outside it's tempting to retreat indoors and sit on the couch bingeing on netflix with a bowl of popcorn, a key element of the concept of hygge is to be in the company of others. To delight in gathering around the table to share hot soup and break fresh bread together. It can be as simple as a plate of fruit and cheese and an afternoon of playing cards. It doesn't have to be complicated and take hours to prepare and set up for. Hygge is about appreciating simple, honest moments and not letting the beauty of our ordinary days pass us by.