The winter nights are drawing in on a world which seems to get busier and more hectic every day and the need to sit back, relax and enjoy the small things in life has never been more prevalent. With stress levels rising in many countries across the globe, the Danes have established themselves as lovers of calm and in turn, consistently top the polls as the happiest people on earth along with many other Scandinavian countries. It is frequently argued that this is all down to hygge. The concept of hygge is one which graces every walk of Scandinavian people’s lives, and news of this lifestyle has been spreading quickly for the last few years, crossing international borders to spread warmth wherever the idea touches.
What is Hygge?
Pronounced ‘hoo-ga’ or ‘hue-gah’, the word is becoming increasingly recognisable and was originally a Norwegian term for wellbeing. Developed into a concept and way of living by the Danish in the 18th century when it first appeared in writings of the time, the country hasn’t looked back since. Applicable to any time and space, hygge traverses both winter and summer but the idea really comes alive in the harsh and bracing cold season Scandinavia is renowned for. These bleak winters demonstrate the power of hygge even further, as even in the depths of the country’s coldest months when there is very little daylight, Denmark’s inhabitants remain the world’s happiest people.
Frequently described as ‘cosiness’ or ‘togetherness’ in English, the term has no literal translation, making it almost impossible to pinpoint exactly what hygge means. Largely defined as more of a feeling or mood more than a specific word, the concept can be interpreted as a mental state rather than a physical one. Simple words like cosiness just don’t do it justice with countless moments from slipping into a hot bath, to enjoying your morning coffee with a fragrant scented candle lit nearby just two of many examples of hygge. You can hygge with a good book curled up on a sofa or with friends around the fire or dinner table, even places can be hyggeligt (hygge-like), demonstrating just how far the notion reaches.
Hygge is the art form of creating intimacy in any given moment. Normally a social occasion for loved ones to get together to experience the comradeship, warmth and contentment of the event, it can also be enjoyed alone to calm the nerves and sooth the senses. An idea which not only breaches weather and seasonal barriers but also social ones, it is something everyone in Denmark partakes in and it has spread through to every aspect of Scandinavian living to become a part of the national consciousness. Appreciating the small joys in life at all times, hygge followers have tapped into a source of happiness which the rest of the world can greatly benefit from in an ever-evolving technological society.
Tips to Hygge in the Home
1. Invest in Candles
Rumoured as one of the largest consumers of candles in the world per capita, Denmark and other Scandinavian countries have embraced the power of the warming glow of candlelight. Whether scented or unscented, candlelight transforms the clean, fresh style of classic Scandinavian interiors into a flickering escape from winter’s chill and a simple lit candle is seen as one of the most fundamental hygge moments to achieve. Danish brand Skandinavisk have even developed a Hygge fragrance with notes of brewed tea, baked strawberry cake, rose petals and wild mint for the ultimate hygge experience.
2. Add Texture
When you think of cosy and warming interiors to create the perfect relaxing moment the mind instantly goes to lusciously soft textures which add another dimension to any interior – think chunky knit cushions, faux fur throws and fluffy woollen rugs. Made from the softest of materials from merino wool to cashmere, textured accessories are a huge trend of the moment with the layering of different tactile surfaces creating a styled look in any room and when combined with a roaring fire or soft candlelight, there is no setting more hygge.
3. Remember the Simple Things in Life are Hygge
You don’t need to overhaul your interior to make it more hyggeligt, tiny additions to the home can transform any moment. Treating yourself to your favourite coffee, indulging in new bubble bath for long dips by candlelight or finally putting your favourite photographs on the wall are all instant mood lifters whenever you use/see them, so take the time to enjoy them.
4. Update your Loungewear
Comfortable loungewear needn’t be an extravagance with nearly all types of clothing brands now offering varieties. From loose tops to harem trousers or onesies, the clothing options to get comfy in after a day at the office or over a weekend in are endless, with countless patterns to express your personality or classic colours for timeless style. Ranging from practical cotton to the softest of cashmere, loungewear can be as luxurious or relaxed as you personally desire making it an essential component of hygge.
5. Hygge with Friends
Primarily a social endeavour, hygge is best enjoyed with friends. The long Scandinavian winter nights are interspersed with hyggeligt gatherings of friends and family by the fireside drinking gløgg (mulled wine) and eating wholesome food, so the best way to experience this idea for yourself is to invite your nearest and dearest round and get cooking. Not just reserved for staying inside, hygge can also be found in the great outdoors and joy can be found from simply donning your warmest clothes and going on a winter walk with your favourite people. The notion of hygge can also be used to uplift others, so test out your baking skills and take your creation round to a friend’s house you haven’t seen in a while to indulge in a spot of hygge together.
6. Take Up a New Hobby or Practice an Old One
Taking up new hobbies to enjoy in the home allows you to switch off and refocus the mind. Turn off the TV and grow to love something new that you can nurture during your hygge moments in the home or pick up something you used to love to do but don’t have time for anymore. Crafty hobbies such as knitting or sewing which have been gaining in popularity in recent years are perfect to teach yourself and help to relax and calm your being, or curling up and reading a good book for a few solitary hours will have you refreshed in no time.
7. Don't Rush
We are always rushing aren’t we? We always have somewhere to be and we are always thinking about the next thing we have to do whilst doing the thing before. To truly hygge you need to slow down a bit to take it all in, there will always be something else to think or worry about but this concept teaches you to take each moment as it is without rushing onto the next. Take the time to really enjoy the mug of coffee you have made, stay an extra ten minutes in the bath to ensure daily stresses have melted away and definitely savour that slice of cake – or you will regret it later.
8. Don't Overdo
Hygge is never about extravagance, indulgence yes, but extravagance no. Hygge settings are not about wowing or impressing guests, they are about creating a warm and inviting atmosphere that friends and family never want to leave. Dinners don’t need to be styled to perfection with a 10 course tasting menu and parties don’t need a long list of cocktails accompanied by an out of this world playlist to be enjoyed, take gatherings back to basics for a more natural, laidback feel.
9. Enjoy the Space Around You
The key idea behind hygge is to enjoy the environment around you and nowhere is this more essential than in the home. Each room needs to be a sanctuary to sink into at any given moment and therefore filled with key items to allow you to do this. Due to increasingly stressful lives an emphasis is placed on the need to ‘escape’ the everyday to experience true relaxation. Hygge fights against this notion demonstrating that overall wellbeing can be enhanced by making small changes to everyday environments, relieving the need to escape at all. So whatever you are doing, take the time to revel in the tiny moments that make you smile and uplift the soul.
10. Remember Hygge Isn’t Just for Winter
Whilst hygge is frequently associated with cosiness, it is a way of life which can be enjoyed all year round. Grab your friends and head to the local park for a picnic or a game of Frisbee, or take some time to sit out in the sun with your favourite magazine and a cold drink to experience hygge in the warmer months. Taking everyday dining occasions into the garden is also a must for summer hygge moments to make the most of the sun before winter rolls in again and it’s time to bring out the chunky knits and candles.
All images courtesy of Amara