The first time I saw the word “hygge” pop up in my social media feed I thought it was a big buttery roll of unhealthy food. I have no idea where that association came from, but I do know that I was way off. Like waaaaaaaay off.
Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a Danish concept that means relaxed, warm, cozy, special, and mindful all wrapped into one.
There isn’t a direct translation to English (helllo fast-paced & stressful lives) but that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of it.
Hygge is a Danish way of life that runs deeps in Scandinavian culture, but it’s just now catching on in the rest of the world. The Oxford Dictionary defines hygge as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well being.”
The Danish face incredibly rough winters, and instead of complaining, they put away their screens, hunker down in front of their woodburning stove, and read a good book. Hygge can look like a lot of different things, but it’s all about rest, living in the moment, and enjoying simple sensory pleasures.
And—side note—now that I know what it means and practice it all the time, I can’t get the line “teach me how to hygge” made up from the song lyric “Teach Me How to Dougie” out of my mind. If you know that song then you can hear how well it fits. YOU’RE WELCOME. 😉
We are always going, going, going. Somewhere along the line, we decided as a culture that the Energizer Bunny was our spirit animal and we should all aspire to never stop. That’s actually incredibly bad for our health, and we need to pause sometimes and do nothing. It’s important for our brains and our bodies to rest. I like to snuggle under a giant quilt and just breath.
OK, sort of joking here, But in all seriousness, the least Hygge-esqe thing in the world is to sit around mindlessly scrolling on your smartphone.
We all are allowed some mindless scrolling on the smartphone now and then. But while this is a sedentary activity, it is not a restful one. Hygge demands that our rest time be actually restful. I like to swap my iPhone for a great book. It’s not that we can’t be entertained, it’s that hygge is about being intentional about relaxation. With my phone in the other room, I’m able to breathe slower and commit myself to the moment. And yes, my thumb gets a break.
One of my favorite Hygge practices is a hot bath with two cups of Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil. I’m often unaware of how much tension I carry in my shoulders until I’m in that bath and focused on unwinding. It’s bliss.
Notice I didn’t say enables dieting. Because that’s not what hygge is about at all. Hygge is sometimes about reaching for that piece of homemade cake and enjoying every last bite. It’s also about cooking your own food–nothing too complicated or fussy–but fresh grilled salmon, or my personal favorite, a big bowl of hearty hot soup. With Hygge, food becomes almost a ritual of well-being. You chew slowly and enjoy every bite. You indulge your taste buds. This approach to eating inspires us to eat quality, whole foods
Hygge doesn’t have to happen alone. While our phones are in the bedroom, we can cuddle up and talk with our loved ones while sharing a cup of tea or a glass of red wine on a rainy evening. And nothing raises serotonin levels (see: happiness) like physical touch and emotional connection with someone we love.
You may think this one is a stretch, but think about how often you suffer from a vague feeling of tension in your head because of all the fluorescent lighting we’re subjected to in our daily lives? One of my favorite hygge practices is dimming the overhead lights and lighting some candles. Beeswax candles are the best, but any kind will do as long as they are not overly scented. Without that bright overhead light, my head is able to truly relax and let go of the tension it carries throughout the day.
If you make hygge an evening ritual and stick with it, you may find your sleep improves over time. I know I sleep much better when I focus on relaxation in the evening (and putting the phone away is a huge chunk of this as well.) Sometimes I even eat a small CBD chocolate before bed, although that’s not for everyone. I always wake up rested and rejuvenated the next day.
As you can see from the above, hygge is kind of whatever you want it to be. Solo or with a group, as long as your hygge practice involves mindfulness, coziness, and nourishment, you’re doing it right.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Tag me in your #HowIHygge posts–I’d love to get some hygge inspo from you, my dear reader.
Here’s that song if you want your own hygge lyric stuck in your head, too.
Stay warm and rested out there!
Instead of prescribing what I think you should do, I help you find what works for you.