Hygge – The Danish Lifestyle Phenomenon

28 December 2016 - Mindful Living

Hygge (pronounced “hue-gah”). You may have seen this Danish word being featured heavily this Christmas, with Hygge books being released on how to achieve the hyggelig (the adjective of hygge) lifestyle. Hygge is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” It has no direct translation in English, but is said to roughly translate to “cosiness” and is related to the English word “hug.”

In Denmark, hygge is a way of life. It’s the Nordic answer to joie de vivre. In 2016, the Danes were ranked as the happiest people in the world by the UN’s World Happiness Report. Why? It might have something to do with Denmark having one of the world’s narrowest wealth gaps, access to free healthcare and education, social security, at least a month of vacation a year, and high minimum wages. But a key ingredient to the Danes’ happiness is the strong support networks of family and friends created by hygge. Hygge is an attitude to life that engenders close personal relationships, thereby creating the support networks needed in times of hardship.

Hygge is a rather abstract concept as many things can be considered “cosy.” However, in its truest expression, it’s about joining with loved ones in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. For example, a cosy time with friends and family, often with coffee, cake, or a warm drink in the presence of candlelight or a warm fireplace. It is also possible to hygge alone, being wrapped in a wool blanket, tea in hand, and a good book. This side of hygge is about being kind to yourself, indulging, having a good time, and not denying yourself anything. Author, Meik Wiking tries to explain it in The Little Book of Hygge as “togetherness, relaxations, indulgence, presence, and comfort. It all boils down to the pursuit of everyday happiness – the art of creating intimacy and cocoa by candlelight…Trying to build a little pleasure and gratitude into your daily routine.”

So how does one live the hygge lifestyle? After trawling through many hygge lists, the hyggelig lifestyle seems to commonly be centred around the following ideas. (Note: As winter is the most hygge time of the year for the Danes, we realise this list may be less relevant in warm-all-year-round Singapore.) 

1. Make your home a hygge home. Hygge is increasingly used as inspiration for snug and cosy, very Instagram-able interiors. Hygge experts suggest candlelit rooms, scented candles, reducing clutter, furnishing for comfort with blankets and duvets, and arranging furniture to encourage socialisation (such as comfy seating and open plan living).

2. Dress hygge. Invest in loungewear/cosy clothing that make you feel relaxed and comfortable in your home. This includes wooly scarves and gloves, warm slippers, and knitted layers.

3. Live hygge. Think simplicity, spending time on activities that matter most to you, and organising cosy evenings with close friends and family accompanied by warm drinks, comfort food, and candlelight.

    We’re still a little confused by what is and isn’t hygge, but it seems to be a lifestyle of simplicity and presence, with a focus on community. Can’t fault a concept like that.

    - The Mindful Company Team