hygge-danish-self-care
Mental Health

Hygge: Danish Way of Self-care and Living Mindfully

Are you familiar with the term “Hygge”? If not, let me tell you wellness and self-care experts have been raving about it since 2016.

Hygge was word of the year in 2016 in the Oxford and Collins dictionary and it has been instagrammed at 3.9 million times!

Still scratching your head? You aren’t alone I too was intrigued by the term. So I decided to dig deep and do some research and over 50 articles and 2 books later I am still fascinated by the beauty of hygge.

Hygge (pronounced as hoo-ga) is the Danish way of intentional living. Self-care experts claim that it is one of the best ways of incorporating self-care in your life.

So what does it actually mean?  Unfortunately Hygge doesn’t have an equivalent English word the closest replication would be “a cozy feeling” or “coziness”.

A quick Pinterest search on the term will give you hundreds of articles on “Best Hygge guide for self-care” or “How to Practise Self-care with Hygge”. Hygge is self-care and beyond that.

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Some Historical Context on Hygge

The word Hygge comes from the Norwegian word ‘hugga,’ which  means “to comfort” or “to console,” literal English translation would be the word “hug”. (source: The New Yorker)

Infact most Scandanavian countries have their own concept of “Hygge’, like in Norway it’s know as “koselig” or in Sweden it’s known as Swedish lagom (LAW-gm), broadly meaning “just enough” or “adequate”.

To give you some historical context, Denmark, which is one of the five Scandinavian nations, has bone-crushing winter when the sun disappears for days.

During such long winter days Danish people relied on certain home activities to keep them warm, comfortable and cozy. This is how hygge became an integral part of the Danish lifestyle and culture.

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What does Hygge actually mean?

Most web literature would tell you hygge is the Nordic concept of practicing self-care. That in my opinion is a limited view of what actually the term means.

Hygge in truest essence is not just limited to self-care. It is a feeling, an experience and a life-lesson in mindfulness.

You may also come across articles advocating to create the perfect hygge environment with candles, soft lights, cushions, blankets, rugs and comfy clothes.

Yes, that’s one way of looking at it if you want to create a cozy, comfortable environment with all material stuff.

Don’t get me wrong these things are essential but ultimately hygge is a feeling of contentment. How do you replicate contentment with material stuff?

You can have all the lovely cushions and rugs in the world but if you aren’t content from within you can’t have that hygge moment.

So again what does Hygge Mean? It essentially means

  • To slow your pace and savour the moment
  • To create contentment with simplicity
  • To have a tranquil atmosphere where you are just happy
  • To have that connection with yourself, people around you and your surroundings.

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Why is Hygge so popular as self-care?

The Danish are known as the happiest people in this planet, as per the World Happiness Index. Infact all Nordic nations have a high Human Development Index.

The Danish/Nordic way of life has aroused a certain curiosity globally and also dumb-founded many and here the role of hygge is pertinent.

I mean just consider this, the Nordic countries have the most torturous weather conditions – long dark winters when sun doesn’t come out for days and the midnight sun phenomenon in some places during summer when the sun shines all night so it’s never fully dark.

Imagine how difficult it must be for their sleep cycle.

Due to their unique weather conditions, Nordic people are also in constant risk of being affected by seasonal affective disorder.

But to their credit the Nordic people have taken their natural conditions in their stride and built for themselves a high quality of life, which includes good health care system, well-planned infrastructure, and social security, also not to forget the paid maternity leaves.

For Danish and other Nordic people hygge is a way of life, they have inculcated it into their everyday routine. It is something they strive to maintain throughout their lives.

They really focus on the simple things in life and on their well-being and happiness.

Hygge is not a new concept

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Believe it or not most of us are not unknown to hygge and have experienced such warm and content moments at one point or other.

Tell me if you have experienced any of these moments

  • Enjoyed a movie on your sofa under a warm blanket
  • Or sipped a warm cup of coffee in a nice comfortable chair in a cozy corner of your home.
  • Or may be read a good book on a cold night tucked under layers of quilts.
  • Curled you toes under a warm blanket and instantly sleep washed over you.
  • Watched the clouds or the birds fly.
  • Took a nature trail with your family.
  • Listened to the sounds of rains or rustling of leaves.
  • A barbecue evening with close friends.
  • A movie night with family.
  • Enjoying a warm, hearty dinner by the fireplace with your loved ones.

Now you might think, wait a minute! I am all too familiar with these things then why is Danish hygge so special.

The difference is the intention. Danes look forward to create a harmonious environment full of warmth and coziness, preferably without distractions.

Now how many times have we enjoyed a heartfelt conversation or had our food without scrolling through the phone, or were actually present in the moment without being stressed about a hundred other things.

Four components of Hygge

Our fast-paced life, hectic work schedules and to-do lists allow little scope for contentment but it is possible to create a bit of hygge in your life everyday and in every season.

How you incorporate it in your life depends on you since there aren’t any specific set of rules. 

You don’t really need to invest a lot in fairy lights, candles and fancy furniture and rugs to create aesthetics for hygge. Although if you want to be please do.

You just need some good company, comfort, and sprinkle some simplicity to have hygge.

Comfort

Hyyge is all about creating contentment through comfort so don’t wait put some good old pyjmas, some old socks to keep your feet warm, some comfy woolen crawl under a comforter to enjoy your latest book or listen to some soothing music.

Remind yourself of your favourite aromas or memories and instantly draw comfort from that.

Since the Danish concept is primarily centered around winter, so historically Danes used lots of candles to fill the room with light to counter the long dark winter.

Plus the warmth of the candles protected them against the cold and created a cozy, comfortable atmosphere.

But if candles for you are potential fire hazard then use some nice soothing soft lights that aren’t very harsh to the eye.

Gathering around a fireplace also seems like a fine idea or you could even consider having an evening of winter bonfire. I mean who doesn’t love bonfire.

You can create a comfortable environment with lots of cushions and blankets, don’t buy any fancy stuff use whatever you have.

Spread some rugs, cushions and blankets, mingle it with some good conversations add some warm drink or a fine glass of wine along with some good food and there you have your hygge moment.

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Company         

Good quality conversations and good company is the spirit of hygge.

Hygge often involves preparing food, in your kitchen with your family or neighbours, where everyone participates in the cooking process.

After all everyone cooking and savoring a hearty meal together is better than one person cooking food for entire family and guests.

Plus it is a great way to connect with people around you.

When you really bond and connect with your close family, friend or neighbours good hearty conversations are bound to happen.

It also gives you a chance to catch up with your close ones, improves your mental health and lifts your mood.

Another aspect of hygge that is largely overlooked is that it’s not always about enjoying the cozy interiors with candles and cushions.

The Danish hygge also includes outdoor activities like nature trail or spending some time in a wood cabin, even in inclement weather.

A walk in forest can be done during long sturdy winters just like in summer days. Wear some warm clothes and go out and about.

Also when you truly connect with nature you become more calm stress-free and observant.

Simplicity

There is a certain frugality in the Danish way of life.

Even if they have a modest life they don’t make a spectacle of it. Their way of life is about pursuing simplicity

Besides these four components, I would suggest you try to bond with yourself, your loved ones in a distraction-free atmosphere.

It means not checking your phone very few minutes and being really mindful about what you hear, feel and taste.

Just make an attempt to connect wholly and be present in the moment.

Why you should practice Hygge

There is a reason why Danes and other Nordic nations top the list of happiest countries in the world regularly. Most health and self-care experts attribute it to hygge.

So that is a reason enough why you should practice hygge, besides it helps your mental health when you seek contentment in simple things in life.

It helps you counter the stress, overwhelm and anxiety of everyday life.

If you live a really hectic life, you some consider taking some timeout for stress-management and use some hygge moments to relax and rejuvenate.

Parting Thoughts

I loved writing this article as mindfulness, living intentionally and purposefully is something I aim for each day. I honestly don’t succeed very often.

Pursing happiness and being content in simplicity is not easy to master and that is what hygge is all about.

Hopefully you enjoyed this article. Please leave your thoughts below. Do you have any interesting hygge tips or trivia you would like to share? Always happy to know your thoughts!

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