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Hygge. It’s everywhere. Some call it the new minimalism, others call it a new way to be mindful. And then there’s the marketers that tell us we can have a hyggelig living room or an entire hyggelig home. I even own The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. It’s easy to be confused about hygge with all that going on. After all, you see the design aesthetic – the pictures of candles and cocoa, the bulky sweaters and socks, and the Scandinavian furniture and wonder – “is that it?” Should I be buying candles, cocoa, spiced teas, and minimalist looking stools from Ikea? It’s a tough call. But let’s take a look at what hygge is, what it isn’t and how to master the art of cozy.
If I had to translate hygge, it would translate to mindfulness. Slowing down and enjoying a moment or soothing things. After reading more about it, I realized it’s about living more of those simple moments where we are at our happiest.
For me, hygge is a hot bath with detox salts surrounded with candles. Oh, and I’m usually reading a great book and I have the lights out. That is something that soothes my soul. It’s peaceful. Now, I’ve got a few others – hot cups of jasmine tea, curling up by a fire-place reading a book, baking Madeleine’s and enjoying with coffee and family – but the hot bath is the top of my list. Can you tell I’m happiest by myself?
What is Hygge?
Hygge (pronounced — hoo-ga) is many things, or rather, many emotions or feelings. To be honest, it’s quite tricky to pin down from all the research I’ve done. The Little Book of Hygge describes it as: “being 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.”
Going straight to the source, Visit Denmark describes it as: “Hygge is more than a cosy room full of candles, company and good food. Hygge is a philosophy; a way of life that has helped Danes understand the importance of simplicity, time to unwind and slowing down the pace of life.”
As you can see, it’s open to interpretation. I see it as slowing down, being mindful, and enjoying those moments that we far too often let rush by us.
Hygge is an art. The art of lighting a room based on a feeling. The art of slowing down and being present. After all, life in itself is art.
What it’s not
Hygge is not a design aesthetic, or rather, it’s not something you buy in a store. It’s not how you decorate your living room with all Scandi furniture – it is a feeling, an emotion, a state of being. So why do we gravitate to a design aesthetic instead? Well, we’ve been marketed products based on what the Danes use. After all, the Danes gave us the Le Klint lamp – beautiful aren’t they?
But Hygge does not require you to go out and purchase special lamps, candles, and furniture. Unless, of course, that’s what makes you feel comfy. Turning down the lights to create atmosphere doesn’t require a new lamp. Maybe a new 1800K warm bulb for $10 but certainly not an expensive lamp if you don’t have the money. But I suppose to each their own – if you have the money and it makes you happy, buy the lamp. I am, after all, an advocate of quality vs. quantity and having items in your home that you’ll enjoy for years to come.
If we take a tip from the Danes, it’s that of simplicity. Did you know that they purchase unscented, organic candles? Yep.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that you can create hygge on a limited income as it’s a way of life, not how you decorate a room. Hygge is not rushing, not taking selfies every second of the day, it’s not drama or competing with everyone you meet in life.
Hygge: Mastering the Art of Cozy
For the past year and a half, I’ve been enjoying minimalism and my own version of hygge. You see, life had become way too fast for me. I was in a constant state of hurried busyness. I began to question things in my day-to-day – was that traffic light green? Did I actually enjoy my breakfast- wait, what did I have for breakfast? When’s the last time my friends and I had a girls night?
After realizing life had become go, go, go all the time, I started taking more moments to myself. I’d take a day off to just be. I’d ignore my phone, emails, everything. I’d simply be. But the challenge was that I felt I should be doing something. My job had me going at the speed of light that I couldn’t slow down for long. I always felt I should be doing more, being more, and chasing more.
Then the moment of truth came – I was laid off and had the option to jump right back in to busy or switch careers and finally fully enjoy my life. So that’s exactly what I did. I took a year off to figure myself out and what I wanted my life and career to look like. Then I switched careers based on my non-negotiables (which are: no commuting for hours, no more cubicle city, no more working to improve someone else’s bottom line, no more working for organizations that don’t care about vision or customers).
Essentially, I started to hygge my life. I wanted a slower pace, less rushing, and no more wasting time on meaningless things. I wanted more gratitude and more meaningful moments.
It’s a change that has been years in the making and also a choice. I decided what I wanted and what I no longer wanted in life. That was the first small step.
What has become the central point of my universe and daily life, was creating a gratitude practice. Being grateful for what you already have does wonders for curing a bad shopping habit. I began to curate my life and what I brought into it. I finally started letting things wear out instead of buying a new one because it was easier.
Let me tell you, fulfillment can be found in using something up, fixing it and using it up some more.
Without even realizing it (until now), I was living the hygge manifesto:
Atmosphere – turn down the lights
Presence – be present, turn off the phone.
Pleasure – all the good food.
Equality – we over me. Share.
Gratitude – take it all in. Be grateful.
Harmony – it’s not a competition, no need to brag.
Comfort – get comfy, relax and take a break.
Truce – no drama. Politics another day.
Togetherness – build relationships and narratives.
Shelter – this is your tribe, your place of peace and security.
Taken from The Little Book of Hygge.
How to hygge with what you have
Isn’t this what we should all be doing anyways? After all, hygge is getting cozy with things we find comfort in. Like a hot cup of green tea, warm socks, and our fave book – Austen maybe?
You don’t have to bend over backwards or spend gobs of money to have your own version of hygge.
Ideas to create a more Hyggelig life:
- Bake a batch of Madeleine’s on a Sunday morning, then enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.
- Go for a long hike or bike ride with friends.
- Start a tradition with family or friends – a monthly girls night, make every Friday games night.
- Give yourself a treat. Eat a piece of cake and take a break from healthy living.
- Make a stew – maybe Vegan or Julia Childs’ Beef Bourignon.
- Create your own cozy nook with a chair, blanket and small warm light or candles. Tip: No need to buy! Use what you have at home that you love.
- Bring nature inside – pick some wildflowers, cut some branches and put in a vase.
- Journal for a few hours with a cup of tea, your fave notebook and pen.
- Take time to write a handwritten letter with paper and pen. Send to a friend or family.
- Create your own hyggelig playlist on iTunes or Spotify. Think relaxing tunes.
- Find one thing you loved as a child and do that. (Stole that from Carrie Pilby)
So you see, hygge can be created if you take your time with life. And creating a comfortable home can be a balance between the luxuries (one expensive lamp) and with found items. Happiness and a hyggelig home is about taking your time curating a life and home you love and can share with others.