Happy Little Things: An Introduction to Hygge

February 10, 2017

Photo courtesy Michael and Christa Richert

A couple of Sundays ago, I spent the entire day in my pajamas. It was cold and rainy outside, my husband and son were sick, and it just seemed so much more pleasant to drink tea and read a book than go out. I even baked coconut chocolate chip zucchini bread. Without thinking about it at the time, I was practicing my version of hygge.

Hygge—pronounced approximately “Hoo-gah”—is a Danish concept that has recently been attracting plenty of attention and popularity. While hygge is most often translated as “coziness,” Danish researcher and hygge expert Jeppe Trolle Linnet suggests it would be translated more accurately as “homeyness,” with home being a place to shut out the negativity of the outside world. You can hygge at home, or in a cozy cafĂ©, or even picnicking in the park—it’s the atmosphere that counts the most. Hygge can be used as a noun, a verb or an adjective!

Pia Edberg, writing in The Cozy Life, describes it this way: “the art of creating warmth, comfort, and wellbeing through connection, treasuring the moment, and surrounding yourself with the things you love.” And while many factors go into making the Danes some of the happiest people in the world, hygge surely must be one reason.

In the fullest sense of the word, true hygge is often planned carefully. It usually involves other people you know well or feel comfortable with, and often some element of the homemade, such a bread or cake. Hygge equals people bonding together and helping each other, especially during the cold, dark winter months. To experience hygge, stay off electronic devices and interact with others. Enjoy simple, old-fashioned pleasures like telling stories or reading aloud. Some equate hygge with mindful living and simple pleasures—things like:
  • Candlelight dinners with family or friends
  • Listening to music by candlelight or firelight (or both)
  • Watching the sunset, with or without a glass of wine
  • Soft textures—fleecy throws or pillows, flannel sheets
  • Furry pets
  • Warm, homey scents, such as cinnamon, vanilla, or pine, from candles or essential oils
  • A bonfire with roasting marshmallows
  • Playing cards and games
  • Doing a jigsaw puzzle
  • Making gifts or cards
  • Hand writing a letter

Hygge traditionally involves togetherness, but why not create that cozy feeling even when you’re alone? Slowing down, pausing, relaxing, taking time to think about what you love and value, and making time to enjoy those things is hygge-ligt, or hygge-like.

Prudy is a hygge expert

Hygge is all about simple pleasures, about helping people make it through a cold, dark, and difficult time, such as a Scandinavian winter. I can’t think of a more Catching Happiness-like concept! 

What simple pleasures contribute to a feeling of hygge for you?

If you want to explore hygge in more detail, check out the following books:

The Cozy Life, Pia Edberg