I love EVERYTHING about the Hygge lifestyle! Just thinking about it makes me want to surround myself in coziness with hot cocoa, a snuggly robe, a warm blanket, and a firepit. Throw in some music and Christmas lights, and I am never leaving!
Yes, I realize that talking about Hygge is so 2016, but no self-care blog would be complete without a mentioning it. Apparently I am wayyy late to the Hygge party (pronounced HOO-gah) but those living in Denmark have the market on work-life balance. The word ‘Hygge’ comes from an Old Norse word, “hugga,” which means to comfort or console (which is also where the English word ‘hug’ orginiated). Hygge is used to describe the feeling of warmth, comfort, and closeness, but the reason the Hygge lifestyle impresses me so much is that it is fully backed and supported by the country itself.
In Denmark, people are encouraged to do things like care for the environment, exercise, and enjoy a good quality of life. Denmark has been a world leader in renewable energy technology for the past 30 years, using wind turbines and energy efficient waste management, making it a very clean place to live. The country landscape itself allows for many to choose biking as a form of transportation, which is evident in the data that over 1/3 of the country bike to work! And recent studies have broken down what a typical day looks like if you live and work in Denmark.
I am a firm believer of the saying “If you want to know what someone values, look at their calendar.” And those living in Denmark are encouraged to have a balanced life. Don’t believe me? Well when was the last time YOUR employer gave you 52 weeks parental leave after your had a baby? This is one of the reasons that those living in Denmark beat out 23 other countries for the best work-life balance in 2018.
The specific data in this study shows the way a person living in Denmark spends each month and the average 24-hour day. I was very disappointed that the US was left out of this study, because I would love to see the comparison! But it’s no wonder they have an average rating of 7.5/10 on the happiness scale! They work 6.6 hours per day, only 32 hours per week. They still have plenty of time for leisure, sleep, exercise, and socialization. The average monthly income is reasonable, supporting the statement that the Danes work to live, not live to work. According to Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge, “Seven out of ten Danes say they experience most hygge at home.”
Now, do people in Denmark still have to work? Yep. And do they still have the daily responsibilities that we have of paying bills, stressors, and raising children? Absolutely. It’s just that the focus implied by the word ‘Hygge’ is balance. Finding time in the day to do things that you enjoy while fulfilling your responsibilities. Its about “filling your vessel” so that it overflows to your family, friends, neighbors, community, and country. That is what fascinates me and is exactly what Self care is about.
Many of the things that you can do to live the Hygge lifestyle are things that we focus on in the blog. Self-care things like meditation, sleep, pet therapy, movement are in harmony with living like a Dane. So add a twist of coziness and you are living a Hygge life! I love the explanation listed in another article that recaps Meik Wiking in The Little book of Hygge:
Examples of the hygge life tend to share five main features:
- Comfort. In his book, Wiking relates one of his favorite hygge memories. He’s spending Christmas Day with a group of friends in a cabin in the woods. After a long hike in the snow, they sit together around a log fire, dressed in sweaters and wool socks, sipping mulled wine. The whole scene exudes comfort: the warmth and crackle of the fire, the cozy sweaters, the hot wine, all set against the cold, snowy background. The only thing that could make it more hygge, they agree, would be to have a storm raging outside.
- Companionship. Another thing that makes Wiking’s scene so perfectly hygge is the group of friends sharing it. You can do hygge things by yourself, such as sitting on the couch with a book, a blanket, and a cup of tea, but it’s twice as hygge to share experiences with others. Small gatherings are best for this purpose; it’s much cozier to spend time with a few close friends than with a big group of strangers, either in public or on the Internet. Alex Beauchamp, who blogs at Hygge House, says hygge is often described as an “art of creating intimacy.”
- Relaxation. This isn’t the same thing as sitting still. For instance, taking a walk through the woods on a fall day, especially with a group of friends, can be very hygge – but it has to be a leisurely walk. Getting some exercise is fine, but any suggestion of haste or hurry spoils the mood. Claus Meyer, a Danish chef, explains in the New York Times article that when Danes gather for a meal, they often start with appetizers, then go out for a two-hour walk before the main meal. This unhurried pace is part of the hygge experience.
- Connection to Nature. Though it’s good to be comfy indoors, a full hygge life involves spending time outdoors too. John Crace of the Happiness Research Institute, writing for The Guardian, says Danes even enjoy going out in the rain. Living hygge means enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of nature: a thunderstorm outside the window, geese honking overhead, flowers in bloom. Cooking with fresh, natural ingredients is also part of the hygge lifestyle; in “How to Hygge,” Johansen includes recipes for New Nordic Cuisine specialties, such as muesli, fruit compote, and roast lamb. You can give your home a hyggelig feel by bringing the outdoors in with fresh flowers or bare branches, or by turning off the electric lights and lighting some candles so you can watch the flames. Even line-drying your laundry, with your clean towels snapping in the breeze, is a way to feel hygge (and save on laundry costs at the same time).
- Simplicity. Hygge is all about enjoying the simple things in life, not chasing after thrills. Beauchamp says it requires “the ability to not just be present – but recognize and enjoy the present.” Sipping your morning coffee in your bathrobe while sitting by an open window – or better still, out on the porch – listening to the birds sing is hygge. Dashing into Starbucks for a to-go cup on your way to work, while simultaneously listening to music and checking Facebook on your phone, is not.
The Hygge lifestyle reminds us to slow down and relax – something that doesn’t come naturally to many of us. We often pride ourselves on everything that we accomplish week to week, not stopping to realize that we are missing the enjoyment in our daily lives. It is in the moments of being intentional, of talking without time constraints to our family and loved ones, that connections are made. Hygge is about companionship, contentment, thankfulness, and appreciating the sunset. How do you Hygge?
“Just living isn’t enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” -Hans Christian Anderson”