Winter is coming, and with it, the season for hygge.
No, I didn’t just sneeze. Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is the Danish term loosely translated as a “quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” The Danish pride themselves on placing hygge alongside other important social pursuits, like universal healthcare and gender equality. Big things happening in Denmark, y’all. Essentially, hygge is just the sense of being cozy in one’s space, making it homey and warm and comfortable so that when you eventually trudge home at the end of a long day, you can relax fully. Some examples of hygge that I’ve seen in practice include draped fairy lights over a bed, extra fuzzy blankets stacked in a corner with a few books nearby, even a warm mug of tea by a window on a rainy day.
The Danes are rumored to be the happiest people on Earth (or second-happiest to Finland, depending on the year; here’s the 2023 World Happiness Report, for your perusal), a statement that dozens of articles and social scientists have dealt with, with varying degrees of suspicion and enthusiasm. I’m not here to argue for either side, but I do think there is merit to the idea that there are a series of things that Denmark is doing right in terms of happiness for a broader demographic of people.
As a former Copenhagen kid (an experience which is an entirely different article in and of itself), I saw hygge in action when I was abroad. Coming back to Kenyon, one of the things that I missed the most was the sense of coziness that the Danish pursued in their everyday lives.
In that state of mind, here are some of my favorite ways to achieve that uniquely Danish sense of hygge.
- Set up fairy lights in your room.
Fairy lights or something of the warm light variety can make a difference in the feel of a space. There have been a myriad of studies done that show that warm light can affect the serotonin levels produced in brains, therefore making one happier. Brighter light in the morning helps you wake up and warmer light in the evening helps you relax, benefitting your circadian rhythm and leading to better sleep (which is such an important factor in happiness). Warm, happy light can really improve the coziness of a room! Grab some string lights from Walmart (that’ll set you back roughly $5.99) and go crazy.
- Drink lots of tea out of cute mugs.
You’d be surprised at how comfy a good cuppa can make you feel. Honestly, sipping on a hot mug makes me feel like the star of a moody Y2K movie, staring longingly out the window as I think pensively about my hard, sad, teenaged life. Pull your sleeves over your hands, curl your fingers around that mug (my personal favorite of my collection is a cup in the shape of Bob the Minion), and get nostalgic. It feels good, I swear.
- Go for long walks in the leaves with a curated fall playlist.
There’s no better way to truly appreciate coziness than going for a traipse through the crunchy leaves (the ones that haven’t been scooped up yet) with some soft tunes. Here are a few of my favorite fall playlists (including my own, not to toot my own horn): Fall Playlist, Ultimate Fall Playlist, cool girl fall, and autumn deez nuts. We only have a few more weeks of fall before the weather takes a turn for the worst, so soak it in and absorb the beauty of the red leaves while they last.
- Appreciate the cloudy skies for what they are.
A fellow Copenhagen critter (a term imposed, not chosen) remembers fondly the gray skies of Denmark. It seems like the sun went away in September and didn’t deign to return until March. In that regard, Ohio and Denmark are very similar. Lean into that! Romanticize the cloudy skies. A good cloudy sky really makes me think of Twilight. Who wouldn’t want that kind of vibe walking to and from class every day?
- Make a bohemian, snuggly Pinterest board.
Having some kind of creative outlet in which you can romanticize and make cute the dreary expanse of winter that now lies imminent before us is crucial. Every semester, I like to make a new laptop wallpaper on the Landing app that encompasses the cozy vibes I’m going for. I encourage you to do the same! Having a space where you can make pretty some of the more grim realities of fall and winter in Ohio is so important.
- Panini press
In Denmark, there are more cafes than anything else. I’m not kidding. Every single block in Copenhagen had at least four. My favorite was called The Living Room and they served these amazing paninis, toasted and crisped to perfection. While we may only have the one “cafe” (Wiggin St. Coffee counts, right?), we do have the Peirce panini press. To really get in the mindset of Danish hygge, make a good panini this fall and imagine you’re eating it in a warm basement decorated in Moroccan fabrics and low couches.
- Abandon normal chairs. Couches are the future.
Speaking of couches! You’d be hard-pressed to find a chair in the most cozy spots in Copenhagen. Who wants to sit in a hard wooden contraption meant to constrict your comfort? In order to fully pursue hygge this season, I propose that you avoid chairs if you can. The library has a myriad of couches, as well as Ascension and the church basement, just to give you some ideas for your next study session.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Find hygge with whatever means available to you! It’s not necessarily a set of bullet points (which renders this neat list I’ve compiled for you obsolete, but alas), but more a mentality. With Ohio winter descending upon us, little things to take care of yourself through finding some form of coziness in your daily life are going to be necessary. Best of luck to you, hygge-chasers.