What is hygge? I think the best way to describe hygge is as a feeling, an atmosphere, or perhaps a memory. Hygge is about feeling at home, feeling safe, and being with the people we love. Hygge is a Danish term, but the word ‘hygge’ originates from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well being’. (Also, it’s pronounced “hue-gah” or “hooga”).
I recently borrowed Meik Wiking’s book; “The Little Book Of Hygge” from my friend Hannah, and since then I have become obsessed with making everything in my life more Hygge. I feel as though reading about hygge has made me view the world and life with a totally new perspective, as though I’m seeing it through completely new eyes. I’m now constantly looking at things differently, announcing “that’s very hygge” whenever it gives me ‘the feeling’. Also it gives me a good excuse to tell my husband to turn his violent tv programmes off because it “destroys the hygge of the house”.
Here are my top tips to making life, and your home, more hygge.
Candles are perhaps the number one way to make your home feel more hygge. Not only does it create gorgeous hyggelig lighting, which I will get onto in a minute, scented candles are great for making your home smell a certain way (even though the Danes consider scented candles to be artificial). For me, even just the ritual of lighting a candle feels so calming, and it instantly makes me feel more relaxed. Just make sure you air the room after burning candles, as the particles shed by just one candle exceed those from a cigarette or by cooking.
Not just any lighting – lamps! A well placed lamp creating a soothing pool of light in just the right place can completely bring the room together. The rule of thumb when it comes to lighting is that the lower the temperature the light is, the more hyggelig it is. This is partially why candlelight is so hygge. Fireplaces are also insanely hygge, but I’m quite bitter about the fact that my house doesn’t have any fireplaces so I’m going to swiftly move on.
“A camera flash is around 5,500 Kelvin (K), fluorescent tubes are 5,000K, incandescent lamps 3,000K, while sunsets, wood and candle flames are about 1,800K. That is your hygge sweet spot.”
Another very hygge kind of lighting, and the opposite to that of lamps is natural light. Imagine yourself in a rustic kitchen with a large, open window, sunlight beaming in over the well-laid breakfast table. Maybe there’s a window-seat where you can sit later on with a book, a hot drink (also very hygge) and a blanket. This nicely brings me onto my next point.
3. Bringing nature inside
This has recently become one of my favourite ways to decorate. Generally the only plants I don’t end up killing are cacti and orchids, but having any kind of plant in your home, even artificial ones, can instantly boost the hygge level. For me, wood furniture and decor is very much included in bring nature inside too because, rather simply, it reminds me of trees and log cabins – very hyggelig. The thought of having a real wood coffee table or dining table gives me hyggebumps (new word I created) – and add in a plant on real wood table and you’ve got yourself a hygge-gasm. Bonus hygge points if you’re snuggled up inside with a hot drink and there’s a wild storm outside.
4. The feeling of touch
For me, anything soft, or anything with knitwear feels very hyggeligt. I guess it just gives me the vibe of being warm and cosy. Warm knitted jumpers, soft blankets, even cushions can be so hygge, and having them in your home will instantly make it feel more relaxing. Admittedly this is mainly more of an autumn/winter thing, but with the British weather being what it is, you can get away with having a knitted blanket on your sofa or on your bed for most of the year. I’m absolutely obsessed with those giant, chunky, cable knit blankets at the moment, and I need to own one!
5. Turn the phone off
I’m very guilty of not doing this one as much as I need to, but turning your phone off will instantly make you feel more relaxed and hygge. Not only does staring at my phone screen strain my eyes and gives me a headache if I do it for too long, but I love the feeling when I know I can’t be disturbed by anything or anyone, and just getting a moment of peace. I’ve actually changed my ringtone and notification tones on my phone to something softer and quieter, more hygge, so the awful noises don’t spoil the hygge of my day when it does go off. I always try to turn my phone off when I’m in company, too. One of my exes would constantly be on his phone whenever we went out for dinner, so I was always sat there like a lemon staring into space while he was busy scrolling, and not only is it very rude, it robs you of the chance to talk and create memories.
6. Hearty food
This is a bit of a give-and-take point here. Hygge meals are all about giving yourself a treat, and taking a break from the pressure of healthy living. The term that immediately spring to my mind is ‘food for the soul’. Food that makes you happy. For me, that’s my vegetable lasagne, a slice of cake, homemade bread, or a big roast dinner. Hygge food isn’t anything that’s particularly fancy or expensive, just simple, family food. That’s absolutely fine with me, however, I also tend to feel the hygge when I’ve consciously made healthy choices, because healthy food makes me feel good inside and about myself. But who am I to mess with the official definition of hygge food? “I need to have cake today to balance my hygge…”
7. Surround yourself with people
The right people. In Danish, the word for “spoilsport” is lykkesukker, which literally means ‘the one who puts out all the candles’. Don’t surround yourself with lykkesukkers! If you are with the right people, who you can have a hyggelig time with and have lots of hyggesnak in a hyggekrog. (See the dictionary at the bottom of this post to find out what those terms are!). Over the past year I’ve found myself shutting others out due to my mental health, but now I’m making a conscious effort to put myself out there more and to value the relationships I have with people, and evaluate the relationships that aren’t good for me. I’m all about having ‘me-time’, but I feel like if I have too much of it I start to get lonely, and sometimes I do crave human interaction. Or I just cuddle with my cats – very hygge.
8. Go for a walk
Getting outside into the fresh air is one of the best ways for me to feel calmer. It’s great when I need clear my head and get into nature. Going for a walk with a loved one is a great way to feel more hygge, because finding new beauty spots and trails to explore creates beautiful memories. In a few months time I’ll be going camping for the first time in my life, to my favourite hygge-spot – The Lake District. I never thought I’d be one for camping but I’m actually really looking forward to the peace and quiet and going for long walks in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside.
A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)
‘why not follow the Danish example and bring more hygge into your daily life?’
Here are some quotes taken from Meik’s book about how and when to use hygge related words, and what they mean!
Hygge comes in the form of both a verb and an adjective – something can be hyggelig(t) (hygge-like): What a hyggelig living room! It was so hyggeligt to see you! Have a hyggelig time!
Hygge is a key performance indicator of most Danish social gatherings. ‘Honey, do you think out guests hyggede themselves?” (It’s the past tense – don’t attempt to pronounce it).
You can pretty much add the word ‘hygge’ to any other word in the Danish language. You can be a hyggespreder (someone who spreads the hygge), Friday night is reserved for familiehygge, and socks can be labelled hyggesokker.
Hygge you have on Fridays or Sundays. After a long week, fredagshygge usually means the family curling up on the couch together watching TV. Søndagshygge is about having a slow day with tea, books, music, blankets and perhaps the occasional walk if things go crazy.
“A fredagshygge tradition in the family was candy and watching a Disney movie”.
That one pair of pants you would never wear in public but are so comfortable that they are likely to be, secretly, your favourites.
“She just needed a day for herself, so she stayed at home in her hyggebukser, with no make-up and just watched boxsets all day”.
To be in the mood for hygge. Literal meaning: ‘the corner of hygge’.
“I am in hyggehjørnet”.
The nook of a kitchen or living room where one can sit and have a hyggelig time.
“Let’s sit in the hyggekrog”.
A person who plays with the kids and may be a little too lenient. Literal meaning: ‘the uncle of hygge’.
“He is such a hyggeonkel”.
Chit-chat or cosy conversation that doesn’t touch on controversial issues.
“We hyggensnakkede for a couple of hours”.
A moment of hygge.
“He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat in his window for a hyggestund”.
While hygge and hyggelig may be difficult to translate into enlist, it is not the case when it comes to the antonym of hygge. Uhyggeligt (un-hygge) means ‘creepy’ or ‘scary’, and this provides us with some insight into how central the feeling of safety is to hygge.
“Walking alone through the woods at night is uhyggeligt if you hear a wolf howling”.
Let me know if you learned anything new about hygge from this post, and also what are your favourite ways to find hygge? Leave a comment below!