When you ask someone to name their favorite season, few will say winter. With its frigid temperatures and biting winds, workdays that end with a drive home in darkness, and shoveling all that snow, even the hardiest of souls want to hibernate.
But there is a Danish tradition that might just have you rethinking winter. It’s called Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah or hue-guh). While the word is difficult to translate, the concept is not. It’s about embracing the season, and finding comfort in coziness, enjoying time with family and friends, and being present.
The Visit Denmark website describes it as “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” It’s more of a state of mind, or an approach to life that can make you feel happier and more content, even during those dreary days.
The concept of hygge has been around in Europe for a long time. In fact, the word itself has its roots in old Norwegian culture and translated to something more like well-being. But in Denmark, it has history back to the late 18th century.
In the past few years, the lifestyle embraced by the Danes made its way across the Atlantic. In 2016, the Oxford Dictionary included it as a finalist in its “word of the year” list. And that same year, The New Yorker had a great article, “The Year of Hygge,” that explains it all perfectly. With all the attention, it’s surprising that it’s not more commonly known in the U.S.
The word itself is rather fun too. With different pronunciations and no exact translation, it becomes even more intriguing. It can also be used as different parts of speech:
- As a noun, it conveys a state of mind; I am feeling hygge.
- As a verb, it means enjoying time with someone or having fun; We can hygge tonight.
- As an adjective, it emphasizes a nice quality; We had a hygge day.
Ways to get hygge
The best part of finding your own hygge is that there are no rules. Here are some ideas to get you in the mindset:
- Curl up with a good book, a soft blanket, some thick cozy socks, and a cup of tea on a cold winter weekend. Try this.
- Gather the family for a fireside chat, without the distraction of screens and social media.
- Dim the electric lights, burn some candles or incense, and just enjoy the peace and quiet.
- Make some hot chocolate, grab a blanket, and cozy up on the couch with your favorite person for a romantic movie.
- Bundle up with a thick woolen scarf and warm mittens and take a walk in fresh snow with the family, or maybe even have fun building a snowman.
- Plan a meal of your favorite comfort food and dine by candlelight.
So, find your inner Dane and make hygge part of your life. You can make it a lifestyle all year long, but winter is truly the best time for the coziness and good company that is associated with the tradition. Most importantly, it’s about finding pleasure in the little things that can bring you happiness and contentment. Enjoying all those little moments of hygge will add up to a lifetime of memories.
For more tips on well-being, visit the Being section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog.