Everything you need to know about the art of living from the happiest people on the planet.

What Is Hygge?: The Ultimate Guide to Cozy Living

You may have heard a lot about “hygge” recently. The word “hygge” was on TIME Magazine and the Oxford Dictionary’s shortlist for the 2016 word of the year and it is popping up in books and the press. A trend that the Danish consider a fundamental part of living, the concept of hygge has been making its way to the U.S. for some time now. But what is hygge, and how do you pronounce it, anyway?

Hygge, pronounced “hue-guh,” is a word the Danish use to characterize a quality of coziness and warmth. Essentially, it describes a warm atmosphere that fosters bringing good people together to enjoy the good things in life. Some things that may be considered hygge include:

  • The warm glow of a candle
  • Cozy, thick, wool socks
  • Mulled wine next to a fireplace with good friends
  • Enjoying a pastry while watching the rain through a window

Perhaps the concept of hygge is making its way to the U.S. at a time when Americans need a respite from more serious current events. Or maybe we have social media to thank, where people are increasingly using #hygge to accompany photos of candlelit rooms and dinners.

Either way, hygge is more than just a pair of warm socks. We set out to discover what exactly makes a moment “hyggelig” (one that is very hygge).

The #1 Place for Happiness in the World

For the Danish, hygge is a way of life.

For the Danish, hygge is a way of life.

Hygge is more than just a room full of candles. It’s a philosophy and a way of life.

To fully understand and appreciate the art of hygge, we must first understand a bit about Danish culture.

The word itself derives from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, which means “to comfort or to console.” It is related to the English word “hug.” It can be used as a noun, adjective or a verb.

In Denmark, winter temperatures are almost always at or below freezing, and daily sunlight is limited to 4 to 8 hours a day, tops. However, Denmark is consistently ranked as the #1 country for happiness in the world.

So how can such a cold, dark place conjure such a happy, warm culture? If you ask any Danish person how they maintain their happiness and warmth during such dark, cold winter days, they will likely tell you it is hygge that keeps them warm.

Such a central part of life for people living in Denmark, hygge is something the Danish don’t often explain and doesn’t translate to any one word in English. In a few words, to the Danish, hygge is:

  • Intimacy they create to make life bearable (and even great)
  • Taking time to slow down to appreciate the little moments in your day
  • Embracing small pleasures, such as petting a dog or watching a sunset
  • Indulging and taking a break from healthy living. Cake is very hyggelig, especially if you made it yourself.
  • Giving yourself a break
  • Creating family traditions, such as camping trips, weekend hikes or vacations with others.
  • Finding joy in imperfection and not taking life too seriously
  • Being kind
  • Connecting with people you love
  • Having a sense of humor

How to Hygge

The warmth of a fire combined with the warmth of friends at sunset make for a perfectly hygge evening.

The warmth of a fire combined with the warmth of friends at sunset make for a perfectly hygge evening.

So how can you incorporate the secret ingredient to the Danish recipe for happiness?

Enjoy a good book: Curl up with a great classic or a book a friend lent to you to enjoy.

Play games with your family: Turn off the TV and have a family board game night.

Indulge in a pastry made by a friend: Confections are central to hygge. Taking a break from healthy food to indulge a bit can be healthy, too.

Relax: Visit a sauna, or have a DIY spa day at home complete with candles and warm tea.

Find little ways to bring joy: Purchase some beautiful stationery. Call a friend you’ve lost touch with. Buy yourself flowers.

Hot drinks: Have a cup of hot chocolate next to the fireplace. Enjoy a latte with a friend or loved one.

Buy quirky home decor that makes you laugh: Pillows with puppies on them, ironic signs and art that makes you smile are all hyggelig.

Create a nook: Place a comfortable chair in your house next to the window. Surround it with books, a small basket of warm socks and a cozy throw.

Enjoy your fireplace: Don’t just reserve your fireplace for frigid nights. Light a fireplace to enjoy with dinner.

Place candles around your home: When Danes are asked what they most associate with hygge, 85 percent will mention candles. More than half of Danes light candles almost every day, and only 4 percent say they almost never light candles.

Turn off the phone: Disconnect. Close your email. Perhaps take a full break from technology for the weekend.

Enjoy seasonal produce: Many hygge elements are focused on warmth and the winter. But you can create hygge by enjoying a juicy peach at your summer farmer’s market, too. Or by enjoying a glass of local wine or beer on your porch at night.

Create an emergency hygge kit

In his book, “The Little Book of Hygge,” author and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute suggests creating an emergency hygge kit for when you need help relaxing or lifting your spirits. Include:

    • Candles: Because they light so many candles, Danish rely on unscented ones that don’t elicit the chemicals smelly candles do.
    • Socks: Place a pair of warm wool or cashmere socks in your kit. Include some lotion to put on your feet before you wrap them up.
    • Chocolate: A small indulgence is essential to a hygge kit.
    • Headphones: Make sure you have a favorite Pandora station or Spotify playlist accessible to set the mood.
    • Books or magazines: Include your favorite reading material
    • A journal: You may want to include a notebook for sketching, or writing down what’s on your mind.
    • A favorite recipe: One from a family member or friend that you love to make is a great addition to your kit.

There is nothing more hyggelig than good nourishment from good people

We are good folks over at Healthy Human! We believe that human kindness leads to world kindness. That human health leads to world health. Join us in nourishing your body with our 100% BPA-free, stainless steel bottles. Don’t let winter leave us without curling up with a cup of mulled wine with friends like the Danish do!

What is Hygge to You?

Have you tried to incorporate more hygge in your life? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below.