The winter months have always been challenging for me. The shorter days kick my anxiety into overdrive, and the dreary weather tends to get me down. Over the years I’ve developed several strategies to get me through the long dark months of the year, and in general they’ve worked fairly well. However, this year has been especially difficult, so I’ve needed to develop some new tactics to keep my mood up as the mercury drops.
Enter a funny-sounding lifestyle trend that is all the rage right now: Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). My husband first introduced me to this concept when he came home from a business trip to Denmark and Sweden. He brought home a book called The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. Since we are both of Danish descent, he purchased the book thinking it would be a fun souvenir. As it turns out, the concepts outlined in the Wiking’s book have become not just a part of our winter survival kit, but a philosophy we plan to utilize in our home and family life all year long.
While there is no direct translation for the word hygge, the closest English comparison would be the word “cozy.” To quote Wiking’s book:
“Hygge is about an atmosphere and experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world, and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
“The Little Book of Hygge,” page six
In a nutshell, the concept involves creating a home atmosphere centered on comfort, focusing on simple indulgences, and infusing your life with a sense of gratitude. Hygge was born out of something us Iowans have in common with the Danes: long, dark, oppressive winters. With hygge, you work to make the ordinary things in your life special by creating simple rituals around daily tasks. In addition, there are easy changes you can make to your home and lifestyle to create an atmosphere that is warm and inviting.
This isn’t just a new lifestyle trend. In fact, there may be some science to back up the claims that a hygge-influenced environment can bring a sense of contentment. After all, it is widely known that the Danes are the happiest people on earth.
Here are four easy ways to bring a sense of hygge into your home:
Soothing, warm pools of light are an important part of the hygge approach. Though there are other design elements that help create a hygge atmosphere (natural materials such as wood and ceramics, for example), lighting is the quickest and most cost-effective way to bring hygge into your home. One of the ways the Danes achieve their cozy lighting is through burning candles. According to Wiking’s book, 28% of Danes light a candle every day and 31% of the people in that group burn five or more candles per day. Lamps are another way to achieve hygge lighting.
When we decided to light our home in the hygge way, we substituted lit candles with electric ones for safety purposes. We found some great options for electric candle sets on Amazon and at Target. We also strung white Christmas lights around our living room and purchased some small table lamps. The end result produces a much more warm and inviting lighting scheme than glaring overhead lights.
Food and Drink:
Warm, nourishing foods are another part of achieving the hygge state of being. Hearty stews and soups with homemade bread, seasoned potatoes, and roasted vegetables are examples of hygge menu items. However, creating warm comfort meals is only part of the nurturing dining experience. Each meal is a reason for ritual and reflection of gratitude–think mini Thanksgivings all year round! The good place settings and table linens aren’t just reserved for fancy dinner parties; each time you gather at the table with family and friends is a cause for celebration.
Warm drinks are another important part of hygge. In addition to the usual warm beverage fare, the Danes love to consume a concoction called glogg. Glogg is a spiced, mulled wine and is perfect for cold, wintery nights. My husband used this recipe on New Year’s Eve. It was rich and delicious, and our house smelled amazing all day!
Wrap yourself in comfort:
Winter weather wardrobe items are ideal for creating a sense of hygge. Soft sweaters, warm socks, shawls, and scarves make a perfect cocoon of coziness. You can also utilize blankets, soft pillows, and rugs around the home to create a warm and comforting atmosphere.
Connect with gratitude and purpose:
Perhaps the most important part of the hygge concept is drawing the people you love close to you each and every day. Enhance your interactions with family and friends by really being present; phones and other distractions should be temporarily set aside. Activities such as cooking together, board games, playing with your kids and even binge-watching TV as a family (we watched “The Crown” over winter break in the name of hygge!) are all examples of meaningful connection and interactions.
Hygge is more than just a winter survival strategy. It can help you endure all manner of storms, all year round.