Denmark is consistently ranked as having one of the happiest populations, coming first this year in a UN World Happiness Report. Now the rest of the world wants in on their secret. The Danes’ happiness could be attributed to their high standard of living, but it may also have something to do with their dedication to well being, called ‘hygge’.
Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) translates to ‘cosiness’ in English, but for the Danes it is more a way of living. During the winters, which in Denmark are long and dark, the Danes make an effort to create warm and happy environments. Enjoying hot comfort food, lighting candles, wearing warm clothing, and spending time with loved ones are all examples of hygge.
You have probably experienced the sensation of hygge in the form of holiday spirit, when streets and homes fill with twinkly lights and the smell of baking. But for the Danes, the experience does not end in January, instead, they bring cosy rituals into their daily lives. Hygge is ultimately about investing in the simple pleasures of life, creating an environment conducive to sensations of comfort and happiness.
The Danes’ focus on well-being is catching on worldwide, with several ‘how-to’ books published on the subject this year. The concept has become especially popular in recent months in the United Kingdom, in which winters are particularly dark (Edinburgh gets even fewer hours of sunlight per year than Copenhagen). Winter slows down the pace of life, as people are more inclined to hibernate in their flats. Students at the University of Edinburgh may be particularly susceptible to feeling down during these dark months, with increased stress during exam season, but by bringing a touch of hygge into your daily routine you can soothe the winter blues.
The first step is to make your environment cosy. Out of convenience, or perhaps laziness, students in flats often take no effort to alter the decor of the rooms when they move in. As a result, they are stuck with bare walls, ghastly furniture, and florescent lighting. However, hygge-like changes are easy to make. Adding fairy lights to your walls or burning scented candles in the evening can make an otherwise bare flat fill with a warm glow. Draping soft, fuzzy blankets over itchy or unattractive couches and chairs is another way to create a more inviting environment. Buy posters for the walls, and rugs for the floors.
Once your flat is ‘hyggified’, you may be tempted to stay there all winter, and it is easy to become reclusive as work piles up for exams. A hygge evening with friends can alleviate feelings of stress and loneliness. Asking friends for tea is a bonding ritual that Brits already practice, and you can enhance the atmosphere by getting under blankets and sitting by the fire. Doing an activity on a cold night, such as baking a cake with your flatmates, will fill your house with warmth. Dinner parties can even be hygge. Gather all your friends together on a cold winter night for an evening of comfort food, friends, laughter and an atmosphere that makes you feel wonderful.
That being said, hygge does not have to be a communal experience, you can experience it on your own as well. Putting on your comfiest sweater and reading a good book may be all you need to feel hygge. Play some relaxing music and take a moment to appreciate all that is around you. If you want to get out of the house, the European Christmas Market is the perfect location – with countless stands of hot food and mulled wine, it is a twinkly hygge wonderland. A bike ride is another opportunity to be a little more Danish, riding through the beautiful city of Edinburgh at dusk would be certifiably hygge.
By living the hygge lifestyle, you are reminding yourself to take time out of your busy day for small pleasures. When a person becomes sad, they often search for huge changes in their life to bring back their positivity, but sometimes you will find it is the smallest of choices and moments that make life a little better.
Image: Light+Shade Via Flickr