​Turn up the Hygge

Let me start by saying that as a Dane I LOVE Christmas! Even the dark cold winter evenings can be magical. It’s a time of year where we can believe in anything: Santa, elves, angels, miracles, wonders and the love of mankind and really turn on the Hygge!

It has been a really positive experience and privilege to see how hygge has become such a buzzword in recent years. And with good reason since it has been found to have lots of benefits. It promotes health and harmony, slows us down, connects us in a deeper way to everything and everyone around us AND it is free and at hand all the time!

More good news:
• Hygge is not something exclusively for Danes – we just have a fancy funny word for it.
• Some of you might already be doing it without knowing and give it as much attention as we do.
• And you don’t have to get on a flight to Denmark to achieve hygge, you can do it right here and now! Though you are of course very welcome to visit our small but hyggeligt country.

But why is it that the Scandinavians seem to do more hygge than other countries? Let’s start with the fact that we have VERY long cold and dark winter months, often covered in snow and in the most northern parts there are only a few hours of daylight in the depths of winter.

Hygge really comes into its own when it gets dark. On the long cold winter evenings when sunlight is scarce, we could easily think of this time of year as a dreadful and dull time. But the Scandinavians have decided to capitalise on this and make it into a very special time, something we truly look forward to. We turn up the hygge by bringing the light and warmth into the house when we don’t get it from outside.

Of course, we can’t say ‘hygge’ without thinking of candles – and they are very essential to the concept. The Danes burn a huge number of candles every year, not to be eco-friendly – but because it means HYGGE.

Benefits of light:
• Light is a way of bringing people together. It is hard not to be drawn to the light when it is so dark everywhere else. We seek the light like moths to a flame and that is where we end up ‘coming together’. Where there is light, there are people, and hygge.
• It makes us feel good – happy and positive – when we are exposed to light. It creates hope and makes us more productive.
• Light helps to make hygge intentional by creating the right lighting and atmosphere.
• I like to think of it as a way of mentally surviving the long, cold dark days – so we don’t raise a nation of sad people.

STEP 1 to hygge: ‘bring on the light’ – in the cold, dark mornings, in your office or where your loved ones get together or just when you are relaxing on your own. Have a think about the lighting in your house – your office, hygge corner, dining table, bedroom etc. – it doesn’t take a lot, just a few candles and a low hanging lamp or a few low watt light bulbs. CLICK here to read ‘how to create light in the darkness’

STEP 2: Hygge is individual: Find your hygge in all the simple things. Is hygge getting together with people, having some nice food and a coffee? Or is it reading a good book in the bath? Maybe it is a walk in the park or doing the things that you like.
Recognise it and do more of it! Give these moments some time. Hygge is everywhere in the small SIMPLE things and pleasures – you just need to look for it and accept it. It is about simplicity (not just reserved for those ‘fireplace moments’) and about enjoying those small but important moments and things in life that give us pleasure. Create a happy, cosy, positive environment for yourself: I love self-hygge where I look after myself. Try at least twice a day to create a bit of self-hygge: sit in your hygge chair and read a book or magazine etc. Take a hot bath. Walk. Anything that makes you content. Do it without guilt. When you are kind to yourself you are more likely to be kind to others!
STEP 3 Tune into what matters to you: What gives you pleasure, makes you happy or content? Recognise it, accept it and own those moments!
Hygge makes the unbearable, bearable; Hygge is the intimacy you create, several times a day, on purpose, in order to make life bearable or even very good. You can create hygge anywhere you want! On that long car journey, when you missed the train, driving the kids to school, daily chores, doctor’s appointments, rainy days etc. Enjoy the moment with your kids, put on some music, talk to the person next to you, who knows, maybe it is a new friend? This all makes the mundane or unbearable, bearable and hyggeligt.

STEP 4 find it everywhere: create hygge in EVERYTHING you do – look for opportunities and possibilities to create and achieve hygge.
Name it: there is something intentional about the act of hygge and the trick lies in naming it. Don’t just DO it, SAY it. Because when we do we make a point of turning something that could have otherwise been pretty average, maybe even a means to an end or an everyday boring task, into something special. And when we’ve named it as that our experience of it changes. It is the ultimate act of ‘reframing’ something. And the more you say it and talk about it, the easier it becomes to achieve it and the more intentional it becomes. Until the word and the concept of HYGGE becomes part of your everyday thinking, behaviour and language. When we say out loud how we want it to be…‘It WILL be Hyggeligt’. It helps us to feel more gratitude for everything we do in life and it reminds us of the goodness in the situation. And feeling gratitude makes us happy and content. Language shapes our behaviour and experience of life, makes us into who we are, happy or not! So, feel free to use the word, adopt it into your language so it becomes part of your way of thinking and daily life.
Say IT before, during and after a situation:
Before a situation: ‘It will be so hyggeligt to see you’, ‘the car journey with you will be so hyggeligt’ etc. This will help you to ‘warm up’ to how you want it to be – by doing this we make the act intentional.
During:‘it is so hyggeligt to..’, ‘this dinner is hyggeligt’ etc. – we develop and create it in the moment, right now. Live in the NOW, ground yourself to the moment!
After:‘it was really hyggeligt to..’, this helps you to prolong the moment – sum up an action and helps you to remember it.

STEP 5 name it: name it – say it out loud when you are having a good time – make it part of your vocabulary so it becomes part of your everyday life. Say what you want to create from a maybe less pleasant situation, ‘oh well, let’s make it into something really hyggeligt’. Sum up everyday actions and situations by telling your kids how ‘hyggeligt it was to be with them’.

STEP 6 Slow down: You can’t do ‘hygge on the go’, in a rush, where you are not present! SLOW DOWN – be in the moment focusing on what is important right now, no matter what it is. We are always on the go, when we have done one thing we are off to the next, or while we are doing it we are mentally already onto the next task. To truly hygge you need to SLOW down, try to do one thing at a time and enjoy it, placing your full focus on what you are doing right now, or who you are with right now. Stay connected to the moment, enjoy one thing/moment/person at a time without always thinking of the next thing.

STEP 7 to hygge: Allow yourself to slow down and leave what is not important to later. Create more hygge around what IS important; Your family, your home, friends, your hobby, sport etc. Being on the phone while you are with people is NOT very hyggeligt!

STEP 8 Space: Clutter is not good for your happiness and is not very hyggeligt – hygge is the absence of mess (your mess). Danes love simplicity in their homes with lots of space and only a few things – this all adds to the feeling of hygge. Take a moment to look around your home. Does your living space make you feel relaxed, happy and content? If not, what do you need to take away and what hygge objects do you need to replace them with? Less mess leads to a simpler and happier life!

STEP 9 Hygge is Homemade and doesn’t come on its own, you cannot buy it! Once you have found it, named it and committed to it – live by it, make it a mindset and lifestyle. A way of living and experiencing life. My husband calls it the Nordic spirit – passed down through generations and years of practice – you can start this tradition and pass it on to your family and friends.

The word hygge has long been associated with cosiness, but as you can see, it is more than that. It is a mindset, a state of CONSTANT well-being in everything we do, say and feel – if we invite it in!
Have a hyggelig Christmas

Mette Theilmann
You may also like to read How to parent like a Dane at: https://mettetheilmann.com/parent-like-a-dane/