Can British people embrace the Danish secret to happiness? Our writer Whitney takes a looks at hygge, the latest lifestyle trend, and sees if it lives up to the hygge-hype.
I first heard about hygge (hue-gah) by accident. I was researching autumnal feature ideas for a home and lifestyle magazine, and found myself engrossed in a BBC story on ‘why hygge makes Danish people happy’.
“Who is Hygge?” I’d naively thought, before looking up its actual definition, which has now changed my life.
What is Hygge?
Hygge has no direct translation in English, but the closest word is ‘cosiness’. It’s a Danish lifestyle concept, best understood through a stream of sensations that describe hygge, including:
- Duvet days when its stormy outside
- Cups of tea and cuddles with your pet on the sofa
- Dinner and conversation with loved ones in dim lighting
- Soft, warm, woolly jumpers
- Cocoa by candlelight
- Fresh-buttered toast after a good night’s sleep
- Crisp, blue morning cycles through the countryside
- The sun warming your bones through the window as you devour a favourite book
- Wearing PJs fresh from the drier, and getting comfy to watch episodes of Friends
Did you get a warm, fuzzy feeling simply by reading that? You know what hygge is.
There’s also concrete proof that hygge works as a positive lifestyle choice, bringing similar benefits to the practice of mindfulness, or self-awareness.
Denmark, the home of hygge, has taken top spot in the United Nation’s World Happiness Report for 2013, 2014 and 2016, (coming third in 2015). These are very smiley people.
So let’s consider how British people could take a tip from the Nordic way of living. It’s worth trying for the sole fact that the average Danish lifespan is 80 years, whereas the global average is 71…
Hygge here we come!
STUFF THE WEATHER
In Britain, we’re already set-up weather-wise to embrace hygge, as our Isles enjoy some seriously cold, wet weather for much of the calendar year. The trick is flipping this damp climate on its head by creating a warm atmosphere, with good people surrounding you. The best way to achieve this is eating and drinking around a table for hours, chatting about anything and everything (NOT watching Gogglebox with a cheeky takeaway).
COMMIT IN PEAK SEASON
The best season to embrace hygge is Christmas time. Little wonder this is when the Danes go all out. They combat the cold and get outdoors with mulled wine, blankets at cafes, oversized scarves, warm baked goods, and streets lined beautifully with festive lighting… Most of these items can be purchased on a budget from your local Wilkos or Waitrose to transform an average abode into a Nordic wonderland this season.
It’s raining outside. “It’s grim” you say. No, no my friend. Those sky tears are beautiful! They are a shining opportunity for you to copiously consume hot drinks, wrap yourself in wool and smile out the foggy window at passers by. Don’t lament about summertime, but embrace hygge instead by enjoying these moments of warmth and comfort in between the storm clouds outside. Invite some mates around to binge-watch New Girl, eat Maltesers and sip on a fine Tawny. Anyone noticed hygge involves a lot of eating and drinking? Yes, now you’re getting it…
AT LEAST 5 FLAMES
Atmospheric lighting plays a large part in achieving hygge. Danes advise that you should have at least five flames burning at any one time for maximum impact. Obviously make sure these are in a safe spot, far away from any flammable items (a house fire would be an anti-hygge nightmare). I always have at least two-scented candles. You can usually pick up bargains from TKMaxx, but here’s one especially for your new lifestyle.
LESS TV, MORE TALK
Honestly now. When are we going to all admit that we have a serial screen problem? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with watching a quality drama series, films or your favourite shows, but eating, relaxing, socialising and drinking in front the television/iPad/smartphone is not going to help you on the road to happiness. Next time you have an urge to watch the box – pick up a book instead. I have a good one to start you off – it’s written by a bloke who has spent years studying the magic of Danish life, so three hundred hot cocoas later he’s sharing his advice: The Little Book of Hygge.
I think that once you get to know hygge better, it ends up meaning something different to each and every one of us – and that’s probably what makes it so attractive.
It’s essentially modern day mindfulness, wrapped up in a cashmere blanky. Tucked in all snug-like and hidden away from the blustery world outside, with the delicious scent of a roast dinner wafting in from the kitchen.
Go on, Janes. Embrace hygge this season. Now you’ve discovered it, just like I once did, it’s time to transform your life from a frantic screen-to-screen rush to the next deadline. Find the joy in the simple moments that make you feel… cosy!
Also, at this point, I’m pretty sure ‘Hygge’ is going to be the name of my first dog.
Are you getting hot-hygge-ity? Share your thoughts on hygge with us – @tweetjanes.