Over the past few weeks, I started hearing the word ‘hygge’ with increasing frequency, especially while I was in Scandinavia. The German dictionary Duden defines ‘hygge’ as comfortable, laid back, but let’s face it – some words can’t be translated, and hygge is definitely one of them. Hygge is much more than a synonym for being comfortable or laid back – it describes a state of mind, a thoroughly relaxed outlook on life. It encapsulates family, friends, enjoyment, light, warmth, kindness and contentment – all aspects that we’d associate with quality time. Some feelings go beyond words, and hygge is one of them. It makes sense that the term hygge is spreading right now, a time of profound uncertainty, turmoil and doubt. We crave security and comfort. We long for the wish behind all wishes: peaceful security, harmony, time with our loved ones, a sense of protected comfort. Hygge is all that.
To live a hygge life also means to start with yourself. Only if you are happy you will be able to make others happy, a bit like in the saying ‘you are able to be with someone only if you are able to be alone’. It sounds like a great principle: make yourself happy, so you can share your joy with others. In fact, it sounds too good to be true. But it is a principle we can use for orientation, no more, no less. From that perspective, hygge really seems to be a formula for happiness. Hygge is originally a Danish word, and the Danes clearly live by it. High taxes, bad weather and vitamin D deficiency not withstanding, the Danish tend to be among the top ranks when it comes to statistics of happiness. But how do they do it? How exactly do you live a hygge life? I did my best to sum it up for you. Without further ado, here are my 5 tips for a more hygge life
5 tips for a more hygge life
Serenity Hygge means enjoying life, to welcome it. It means meeting the challenges of every day life with inner calmness, to not get too upset by negative experiences, to accept bad moments rationally. ‘Why should I worry, if I can’t change it?’ We’re all guilty of overthinking, of being scared too easily, of letting certain things way us down way too much. Hygge is a focus on the real substance of things, a state of awareness of ourselves and our environment, the people in our lives and also our own desires and needs. It also means dealing with conflict in order to restore harmony (hygge does not mean to shun conflict). In a word, it means to be a peace with yourself.
Enjoying the moment Often it is the small things in life that make us happy, the little rituals that make up our daily routines. Going to the movies, enjoying a nice walk, snuggling up at home on Sunday – hygge means enjoying these moments consciously, to celebrate them. A tasty hot chocolate with cream, a wonderful dinner with friends, or a moment of silence in the bathtub – joy is not always found on mountain tops, it doesn’t always come in form of a kiss in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Joy is part of the fabric of daily life, and to see it requires awareness. Once we integrate this simple understanding in our being, we experience much more joy, and are, well, simply happier.
A hygge home There’s a reason why Danish design is so sought after in the world. Hygge is not only reflected in the mind, it also manifests in your living space. Instead of complaining about the cold and grey season, the Danes know how to enjoy time at home, and they know how to make their living space extremely comfortable. Cosy blankets, hot chocolate, scented candles, soft nd fluffy materials – everything that makes your home comfortable and hygge is welcome, and supports your entire state of mind. It’s really no surprise that the Danish style is so famous – those guys know how to make a home a sphere of comfort!
Spending time with friends and family Hygge is a personal state of mind, but it also implies family vibes, friends, and values like kindness, love, respect and contentment – the bonds that bind us with our loved ones. Quality time with friends and family – that’s a key hygge concept right there. It doesn’t always have to be a shared vacation, it can be as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee together, going to the movies, or preparing a meal. If it includes a harmonic sense of togetherness, it is hygge.
A healthy work-life balance The average working week in Denmark has 33 hours. Wages are higher than in Germany. This results in a better balance of work and spare time, which in turn actually increases productivity. More spare time means more time for oneself and for hobbies, for creativity and self-realization. You spend more time doing what you love, and that makes you happier. It may not be that easy to implement the system in other countries, but if we take a closer look at how our lives are organized we probably realize that time is relative. We tend to spend a lot of energy on optimizing our time management in order to have more time, and usually we end up with much less of our most precious commodity. It is a vicious circle. How often do we take work home with us? How often do we put pressure on ourselves to live up to all kinds of standards, in our work as well as in our spare time? We enroll to pottery classes, want to learn several languages, we want to party. We also want time for all our friends and family, and deliver top performances in our jobs. We believe that being more effective will make us more happy.. but most of us are happiest sleeping in on a Sunday and forgetting about the stress of our daily lives. There’s more joy and happiness in that than time management can ever create!
photos: Theresa Kaindl
These are the central aspects of the hygge formula of happiness. Learning about the hygge concept helped me to develop a certain serenity, and it also helps me to remember to not get upset about things I cannot change. I cannot influence US politics, nor do I have a say about the weather. Hygge describes a positive outlook in life that I hope to grow into more and more: if I see that the sun is shining, I feel I should go out and drink my morning coffee in the light of the new day. If it rains, well, I’m going to cosy up at home and light a few candles. There’s no such thing as a bad day, there’s only bad attitudes. I think we can learn from the Danes to take life a bit easier, to enjoy the moment more, to forget about everything, once in a while. Have a hygge week, dear readers!