Hygge? What a funny looking word, you must be thinking. “And how on earth do I pronounce that?” must be second on your list of questions. Well, the answer is ‘hoo-gah’ and whilst it sounds extremely unfamiliar and whilst there is a not an English word that directly translates from the Danish, there is a feeling we can associate with this movement. Cosiness, simplicity and homeliness are the nearest we can get to synonyms for this concept of creating ‘the art of intimacy,’ taking pleasure in the ordinary moments around us and acknowledging how special and beautiful they are. In a world where greater focus is being placed on mental well-being every day, this love for the ordinary, that has been known in Scandinavia for centuries, is being replicated far and wide in an attempt to find out how Denmark has repeatedly been ranked on the United Nation’s World Happiness Report as number one.
For an immediate boost of hygge, one must light a candle, (or a whole armful if you have them) and distribute accordingly. Denmark is known for having candles everywhere: in classrooms, shops and, of course, around the home. The average Dane burns six kilos of candle wax a year. Six kilos! Warm and cosy lighting is at the very heart of hygge and this flickering, traditional variety is definitely the preferred method. This is mainly due to the short days and surrounding darkness throughout the Scandinavian winter; soothing pools of soft light help fight off the bleakness of the weather with a familial tranquillity. Denmark, of course, is not alone in this respect and the misty months ahead can be challenged with hygge principles in homes nationwide.
Togetherness is a concept hugely channelled by the hygge community. Think about the last time you were truly happy. According to Meik Wiking’s 'The Little Book of Hygge,' his studies show that roughly nine out of ten people he tested associated this happy memory with time spent with others. By socialising in a sharing, relaxed manner, hygge allows people to open up and expand their comfort zone, to listen and be heard, shedding worry and anxiety. This is usually carried out in small groups to encourage intimacy and a greater connection with friends, with Wiking stating that “almost 60% of Danes say the best number for hygge is three or four.” With this sharing and friendship, the safety at the centre of the hygge movement can be seen; whilst most hygge-associated words are untranslatable in English, the antonym for hygge, uhyggeligt (un-hygge), directly translates as ‘creepy’ or ‘scary,’ displaying how warmth and trust are their more favourable opposites.
You will be glad to know that embracing hygge also means embracing comfort food this winter! In these moments of sharing and caring, whether with friends or alone, a little TLC is often conveyed with a foodie treat: a hot chocolate, a slice of cake, a little indulgence to make you feel good inside. This is most certainly the case in Denmark, and even grounded in fact by Sugar Confectionary Europe, which states that confectionary consumption (8.2 kilos per person!) is twice the amount consumed by the European average. If this encouragement of all things sugary still shocks you and your post-Christmas food coma, then you can still experience the hygge relationship with food by getting stuck in and baking for others! Sourdough is the favoured creation, according to Wiking, as it can be nurtured like a baby, with the therapeutic kneading process acting as a stress reliever.
As you embark on this journey into 2017 take a hyggestund (a moment of hygge) and remember the Hygge Manifesto: Atmosphere, Presence, Pleasure, Equality, Gratitude, Harmony, Comfort, Truce, Togetherness and Shelter. It will not break the bank, but give you back the cosiness associated with childhood, gratitude for the people around you and a little less stress in a busy world that everyone sometimes needs a step back from. Happy hygge to you.
Original Image by Lucy Roberts