Hygge. Hug? High-gee? Higg? What even is that? It is actually pro
nounced: [hue-ga]. Hygge is a Danish word. Though it doesn’t have a direct English translation, the closest is “coziness.” Hygge is a Danish concept that involves slowing down, appreciating the little things, and spending time with friends and family. Though hygge is a noun, it encompasses an atmosphere or feeling of warmth, joy, and comfort.
I love Denmark
Okay, hold up. At this point, you might have a few questions. You may be wondering how I happened upon this Danish word/concept, why it means so much to me, and what makes me a reliable source of hygge information. It all started when I was 10 years old. I read The Young Underground Series by Robert Elmer and they quite literally changed my life. These books highlight a fictional set of Danish twins growing up during World War II. They feature adventure, life lessons, danger, and Danish culture in the context of historical events.
Normally, when a child reads a book, they may really like it and even want to read it multiple times, but rarely does a book cause a child to fall in love with a country. I fell in love with Denmark. At first, I just played pretend and imagined I was running from the Nazis or helping save my imaginary friends from being captured. As I got older, I began writing papers about Denmark for school. Some of them centered around historical events and others were about Danish culture and more modern topics. I read about Denmark as much as I could. I spent hours looking at images of Denmark, learning about their royal family, and gaining random knowledge I could nerd out about. Along the way, I not only fell more in love with Denmark as a country, but I fell in love with Danish culture, the people, and their way of living.
When people learned I loved Denmark they would say “So you must have Danish heritage?” or “Have you been to Denmark before?” Nope. How could I love a place I had never been to and didn’t have any true connection to? I didn’t know, but I just kept loving it. As I grew older I became increasingly aware that my love of Denmark is quirky and atypical. You know when you meet people at an event or something and they do an ice breaker question like, “Tell us your name and one unique thing about you.” Well, people look at you really strange sometimes when you say, “Hi, my name is Sarah and I love Denmark A LOT.” They just don’t get it. I have learned to be okay with that. My closest friends let me nerd out about Denmark on occasion which I really appreciate.
In 2018, 10 years after reading The Young Underground Series, I visited Denmark for the first time. I had loved Denmark for half of my life and my expectations were so high. Would Denmark live up to my hopes and dreams and all the things I had only ever read about? I remember sitting on the plane filled with anxiety. I was so afraid my beloved country wouldn’t be as grand as I had imagined for so long. On our first evening there, while walking the streets, we happened upon The Round Tower, a landmark I had seen many times via Google Maps. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked up at the tower reaching into the sky above us. This place was real and it was just as beautiful as I had imagined. In the days that followed, we were able to see so many of the things on my bucket list. It was amazing and did not disappoint. I love Denmark just as much as I did before, if not more, and I can’t wait to go back soon.
I had heard about and researched the Danish concept of hygge long before visiting Denmark. pinterest has a wealth of Danish design, food, and activities inspired by the principles of hygge, but that was nothing compared to the actuality of seeing the way the Danes themselves live out hygge. After I returned home from my trip to Denmark I studied hygge more and began implementing some hygge practices in my own life. God gave me this deep love for a reason. It was as if, when I was 10, he handed me the country of Denmark and said, “Here you go. Here is this country for you to love and share with others.” For so long I didn’t know how to share with others about my love of Denmark. I only felt awkward or nerdy about it. It wasn’t until recently that I started to realize others are interested in hygge. Teaching others about hygge allows me to share my love of Denmark as well.
Why do you need hygge in your life?
Balance, margin, whatever you want to call it, everyone needs it. Everyone needs a little space to breathe and ways of finding joy in the little things. We live in a culture that encourages life being so busy and crazy we don’t have time for appreciating beauty, simplicity, or even quality time with others. Hygge has been growing in popularity across the world because it is a principle that helps create a life of coziness and community.
What I love most about hygge is that it is adaptable for each person and circumstance. In The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, he says:
“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life—or just be comfortable in each other’s silent company—or simply just be by yourself enjoying a cup of tea.”
The 3 P’s of hygge
Below are three ways to add a little hygge in your life with what I call the 3 P’s of hygge:
You can create or find hygge just about anywhere. You might find hygge on your favorite knickknack shelf at home whereyou display items from your family vacations. Those knickknacks take you back to a specific memory or feeling, most likely positive. Or perhaps hygge can be found in your kitchen or dining room where your family gathers for meals. Maybe just the thought of the room filled with people laughing and chatting makes you smile. Hopefully you can name a few places where hygge already exists, but what about creating hygge? Google “hygge design” and take a look at the images. You will find a plethora of well lit, simple, cozy homes.
- Light. Add a little light. Danes will tell you that a vital part of hygge in Danish culture is candlelight. Personally, I am not a huge candle person, but I love light. Great smells and lovely lights make everyone feel cozy and a bit more hygge. Can you imagine what Christmas décor would be like without light? What about a house? No one likes a house without windows! Vitamin D is so good for the soul. Open the blinds, light the fireplace, turn on a lamp, light candles, etc.
- Simplicity. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Guests at a party don’t need extravagant and neither do you. Be intentional with your décor choices, your activities, and your food. Each item needs a reason to be there. In photos of Danish homes, there is a lot of white. White is clean, allows for personal expression, and it keeps things simple. Hygge is not plain and boring, rather, it is natural, easy, and does not induce stress or overwhelm.
- Coziness. How is the coziness factor in the place you are trying to create a little hygge? Something that is hygge for you should not make you feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Add a cozy throw or blanket to your couch. Need a moment of hygge while the kids are napping? Throw on some cozy socks while you sip some hot tea or coffee. Having friends over and you want them to step into a hygge atmosphere? Encourage them to take their shoes off and feel at home and hygge in your space.
Other people are an important part of hygge. Generally, hygge involves time with close family or friends. Introverted or extroverted, we all need our people. Creating hygge with the right people might look different for everyone. For me, it means creating a place where I can love all kinds of people. I thrive off of hospitality and inviting others into my space. I want to be a place of hygge for other people by being present and flexible.
- Presence. Put your phone away. Allow yourself to enjoy hygge with those around you. Focus on the people in your presence rather than the distractions on your phone. I love how one of my friend handles this. When people come over, they have a basket near the door where everyone puts their phones so they can be fully present. When you go to a restaurant, consider asking everyone to put their phones in the middle of the table so you can all enjoy your time together. I have even heard of people making a rule that the first person to forget and pick up their phone has to pay for the meal!
- Flexibility. We are all different. Be flexible with hygge in order to love others well. Not everyone will experience hygge the way you do. I love hunkering down under a big soft blanket, snuggling on the couch, and binge watching a favorite tv show. Make an effort to find out what might be hygge for others. There is balance in hygge. If watching tv is part of your hygge, share that with others, but remember to include them graciously. Maybe ask their favorite show to watch and watch that instead. Be careful not to let hygge mean perfection. That delicious home cooked meal you made for dinner that just spilled all over the counter and made a huge mess? That’s okay. Order pizza and let the people you eat it with be the hygge rather than the food.
If hygge doesn’t make you smile and bring a little joy into your life, you’re probably not doing it quite right. If you are living out hygge in your life, it should be radiating to others as well.
- Attitude. Leave your bad attitude at the door. Hygge cultivates community, harmony, gratitude. There really is no place for grumbling, gossip, or other negative additions. If you are attempting to create hygge in your home, putting up an encouraging Bible verse or a funny quote can make the room feel more inviting, a little less tense, and overall, more peaceful. Better yet, get a cute pillow with a funny phrase on it. Cozy AND positive!
- No drama. Hygge with others is generally not an opportunity to discuss your bad day at work, politics, or even the bad weather. If phones are put away, there shouldn’t be drama coming from social media or the annoying text conversation you might’ve been having. Creating a place of hygge means creating a place that is free of life’s craziness.
- Pleasure. Hygge wouldn’t be hygge without all of your favorite things to keep you positive. This is truly where hygge becomes diverse and personal. Your hygge might differ from someone else’s because different things make you happy. I encourage you to make a list of things that bring you pleasure. Keep it simple. Could be as small as riding with the windows down or sitting on the couch with your dog. Whatever it is, incorporate those things into your life regularly.
I hope you are able to take some of these suggestions and put them into practice to add a little more hygge in your life. It makes my Denmark loving heart happy to share these tips with you and hopefully make you fall in love with Denmark just a little bit. Now go create some hygge!
Below are a few resources:
The Young Underground Series by Robert Elmer
Little Book of Hygge
How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life