The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is definitely having a moment – well, more than just a moment – more like an explosion. Hygge certainly seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people around the world (it was even shortlisted as the word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016). Not just a passing trend, the concept of hygge continues to resonate, which I think is wonderful.
A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being
(regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture) ‘why not follow the Danish example and bring more hygge into your daily life?’
– The Oxford English Dictionary
But what exactly IS hygge and how will it improve your life?
Originating from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well-being’, the word hygge is also believed to be loosely connected to the old English word ‘hug’ which means ‘to embrace’. Sounds lovely don’t you think?
I think Charlotte Abrahams, in her book “Hygge: a celebration of simple pleasures, living the Danish way” captures it beautifully when she describes hygge as:
having regular time out in which we do something gentle and pleasant without feeling guilty about it
Hygge is all about enjoying the simple everyday things. Food and drink. Home. Friends and Family. Nature.
It’s about well-being, comfort, relaxation and contentment.
Hygge can make you feel happier
Research has shown that Denmark is one of the happiest nations on earth. Denmark is also the home of hygge. Coincidence? Probably not!
Meik Wiking CEO of the Happiness Reseach Institue in Copenhagen believes that there is a link between hygge and happiness which he examines in his book “The Little Book of Hygge: the Danish Way to Live Well“. He suggests that “some of the key components of hygge are drivers of happiness.”
Hygge gives us the language, the objective and the methods for planning and preserving happiness – and for getting a little bit of it every day – Meik Wiking
While the Danes may have defined it and made it a part of their national consciousness, it is a concept that is accessible to all, regardless of when you were born or where you live.
Hygge moments are the small everyday moments that make you happy…Having a word for them makes you aware they are right in front of your eyes – Marie Tourell Søderberg
How to feel happier with hygge
We know that positive emotions contribute to our overall sense of well-being, and that practising hygge will generate these positive emotions.
Here are 5 ways hygge will boost your happiness and well-being
1. Connecting with nature
Intuitively we know that being in nature is good for us – that it makes us feel happier and healthier, both physically and mentally. This is supported by many scientific studies showing that being in nature has a positive impact on our minds and bodies.
Hygge doesn’t always have to be about hunkering down inside with coffee, books and cozy blankets. You can also have a hyggling time outside, at any time of year.
Noticing the first bulbs and blossoms appearing and tending to your garden or allotment in spring. Camping, hiking and picnics in summer. Sledging and skiing in winter – there are lots of ways to enjoy hygge moments outdoors all throughout the year.
2. Connecting with friends and family
Strong social bonds are important for our well-being. Research has shown that quality relationships have a big impact on our levels of happiness. Face-to-face contact with people we care about matters. Strengthening our relationships with friends and family leads to increased feelings of well-being and happiness.
The epitome of hygge is eating with friends and family. A big part of spending time with friends and family involves preparing food and sharing a simple meal with people you love. In an informal, relaxed atmosphere where everyone pitches in.
Sharing food together strengthens bonds. It helps us connect with our family, and strengthen relationships with friends.
Through making time for social connections with friends or family you’ll boost your well-being and happiness.
Getting involved in your local community is another great way to make the social connections that promote hygge. Being a part of groups such as sports clubs, choir, book-group, or a gardening group, provide a sense of community and belonging.
3. Slowing down, being present and focusing on the moment
Hygge moments are distinct. They aren’t merged in with all the other things that are happening in your day – and they are never rushed. When life feels rushed – when you’re thinking ahead to the next thing (or 5 things) to do on your list, it’s hard to appreciate the moment.
For a moment or activity to be truly hygge, everyone involved must be truly present, focussing on only what is happening at that moment.
Science shows that we are happiest when we are present – when we focus our attention on the here and now. When we are mindful of the moment we are in.
4. Being kind to yourself and others
Hygge acknowledges the importance of self-care and well-being. When you practise hygge you are giving yourself permission to do what you need to do to feel good.
Hygge gives you permission to take some downtime, to feel relaxed, rested and restored. It’s about taking a break from the pressures of life and taking pleasure in your break.
Charlotte Abrahams, in her book “Hygge: a celebration of simple pleasures, living the Danish way“, highlights the way Danes, through hygge, legitimize activities that others might disregard as inconsequential, or worse, lazy.
Through being intentional in the activities they choose to feel rested and recharged they do not look upon it as wasted time, or feel guilty for doing something pleasurable. They recognise what they are doing is important.
Guilt doesn’t feature in hygge. Time spent in hyggling moments such as reading a book, dozing in your hammock in the garden, lingering over coffee, or chatting over the fence with a neighbour is just as important as time spent doing housework or paying bills.
When you are with your friends and family you are giving them your full attention. You’re listening to what they say. You aren’t checking your phone for messages or scrolling through your Instagram feed. By being present you are showing them that you care about them.
When you focus on the present moment, you make the most of NOW – you focus on what you do have, not on what you don’t. You savour the moment instead of taking it for granted. You acknowledge what’s good in your life. In other words, you practise gratitude – which is shown by many evidence-based studies to have a positive impact on happiness.
When you are grateful for the good things in your life you feel more positive, take better care of yourself and build stronger relationships.
You can’t buy hygge in a shop
Despite what many retailers would have us believe, hygge is an experience or feeling, not a thing.
Buying stuff is unlikely to make you feel happier in the long run, but creating a hygge atmosphere, and making the conscious choice to slow down, connect with friends and family, feel gratitude and appreciate nature will undoubtedly impact positively on your well-being and your overall levels of happiness.
It’s the little things!
Through adding small pleasures to your day through moments of hygge you’ll boost feelings of well-being and contentment.
Remember, it’s those little things that we do every day that bring us pleasure that lead to feelings of happiness. As Benjamin Franklin said
happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasure that occur every day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom
Discover those little things, and have a hyggling time.
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