Embrace the Danish art of living well.
What is the hygge life? We break it down plus share seven tips to slowing down…
Hygge, pronounced hue-gah, is trending worldwide, filling up Instagram feeds and dictating a movement in lifestyle design. While there’s no English word to describe this Danish philosophy of ‘living well’, it can be likened to creating an atmosphere and experience of cosiness, finding the joy in the rituals of daily life and togetherness, and the art of creating intimacy. Hygge is part of the Danish national identity and has been in their vocabulary since the early 19th century.
It contributes to their reputation as the happiest nation in the world, even though they have some of the harshest winters globally. But what is it that makes hygge so incredibly inviting and something that the rest of the world is looking to embrace – so much so there’s even an app to help you add hyggelig moments throughout your day? In The Book of Hygge, Danish author Louisa Thomsen Brits describes it as a way of life, of being. While most Danes are
raised in the cultural embrace of hygge, there are many ways you can open your life to its richness and tune in to its presence in your everyday.
It’s the simple things
The beauty of hygge is its ability to make the small, simple things life’s little pleasures. It’s finding comfort in a well-made cup of tea, lighting a candle at the dinner table and inviting the family to gather and share a meal. It’s pausing throughout your day to take a step back, to breathe and appreciate the present moment. The Danes have crafted
this into an art form. While the weather is bitterly cold through most of the year, their homes are created to invite comfort and warmth, with textiles and fabrics, furniture and designs selected to invite you in, to sit together in close proximity – whether around a table or fire, or piled on the sofa enjoying each other’s closeness while watching a
favourite film over a cup of steaming cocoa.
‘Wellbeing is about a deep rapport with ourselves and the world around us,’ explains Louisa.
‘Hygge strengthens that rapport by nurturing consideration, responsiveness and delight in our relationships with the places we inhabit and the people who make up our families and communities.’ It’s about the feeling it creates, you need to feel hygge. It cannot be found in objects or a particular style, it’s rather about creating spaces and
connections that allow it into your life. ‘We all recognise the universal themes that underpin the practice – belonging, trust, connection, community, mutuality, kinship, security, home, contentment, authenticity, presence and love,’ says Louisa. ‘If we make an effort to stay in love with life itself by cultivating contentment, we engender wellbeing.’
Seven tips to slowing down
You probably already hygger on a daily basis – climbing into bed with a book and resting your feet on the warmth of your partner’s body; gathering with friends on a Friday evening to enjoy a meal at a local restaurant; enjoying the stillness of the house each morning as you get up. But how else can you invite it in or become aware of hygge?
Here are seven ways to incorporate it into your life:
1. Be in the present
Hygge is about slowing down to enjoy moments throughout the day. Yes, life is busy between work and family, but there are opportunities to find rest and stillness, whether in making a cup of tea, having a catch-up with a colleague over lunch in the courtyard, or taking time to appreciate the beauty in the simple rituals of everyday life. ‘If we only
have half an hour to spare, we can still light a candle, cradle a mug of warm tea in both hands and read one chapter of a book. In acceptance of the limitations that life imposes on us and in knowing that we can choose our attitude in any given circumstance and make the best of our situation, we throw open the window to hygge,’ suggests Louisa.
2. Share time with friends and family
‘At a time of global instability we have become distanced from each other and the environment. We have lost the immediacy, comfort and truthfulness of the literal and actual, and the need to find alternative ways to consume and connect,’ Louisa explains. ‘Hygge describes a way of being that introduces humanity and warmth into our homes, schools, workplaces, cities and nations. Hygge stems from a society that is focused on people rather than things. It is linked to the language of love and to the idea that real wealth is not what we can accumulate but what we have to share.’
3. Light all the candles
Did you know the Danes have one of the highest candle consumption figures in the EU? That’s because they love them. Lighting a candle, dimming lights and creating an ambience of softness and warmth is central to hygge. Light a candle in the early hours during your morning routine, or at night-time over dinner with the family. Turn all the lights off
and create an atmosphere of serenity with lots of flickering candlelight.
4. Create a space of comfort and pause
Furnishing your home with fabrics you can enjoy, you want to touch and spend time with is essential for creating
a hyggelig home. ‘Spaces are created for solitude and participation, privacy and sociability, stillness and sound,’
says Louisa. A blanket thrown over the edge of the couch, comfortable slippers waiting for you at the end of the day…
5. Go outside
While hygge might be associated more with being indoors during the cold winter months, burning fireplaces, blankets and slippers, the Danes embrace it throughout the year. This means enjoying the outdoors too, come rain or
snow. It’s cycling through city streets, wrapped up in scarves and greeting passers-by. It’s spreading a picnic blanket in a field in the summer months, enjoying the warmth on your face and skin. Embrace the outdoors with a daily stroll around your familiar neighbourhood, add plants to your home, and spend time in the early evening in your garden. Nature is a big part of hygge and, according to Louisa, ‘is encouraged to embrace a home, to grow close to its walls, to shade and shelter the lives of the people who live there’.
6. Make food with love
Making and sharing a meal is another important pillar of hygge. When doing this daily at home, slow down and enjoy the process. Invite the family into the kitchen to make a loaf of bread from scratch or a batch of biscuits to fill your home with the aroma of baking. Food made and shared with love is pivotal to human nature. ‘Sharing a meal is the epitome of hygge. It brings us together, nourishing our bodies and spirits,’ says Louisa.
7. Take a break
Put down that phone, turn off the TV. It’s hard to allow hygge to enter when you’re constantly glued to your social media feed. ‘So many of us are drawn to a virtual world of connectivity. Hygge isn’t a life without technology, but it asks us to balance our commitments and remember the value of human interaction, conversation and physical intimacy,’ says Louisa. ‘It liberates us to fully inhabit the moment without feeling compelled to record it.’
The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits (Ebury Press) is available at leading bookshops.
FEATURE: TARYN DAS NEVES PHOTO: FOTOLIA.COM