How to "Hygge"

In the last couple of years, the word “hygge” (pronounced hue-guh) may have come onto your radar. Presented as everything from a self-help trend to a way to decorate your home, hygge has made its way into the lives of North Americans. Hygge is a wide-spreading concept right now, but few people really know how to apply it to their lives beyond simply stringing up some fairy lights.

Hygge is a Danish construct that means “to be cozy” and take pleasure in simple things, such as intimacy with others. It is more of a mindset, or lifestyle choice than anything else. The word “hygge” can be used as an adjective, a noun, and a verb within the Danish language. Danes know how and are able to enjoy life simplistically, and realize the benefit of such a lifestyle. Could this be why Denmark is currently one of the world’s happiest countries? Scandinavian countries in general take up many of the top rankings for the so called “happy” countries and many of them have their own version of hygge; Norway has koselig, Sweden has mysig, Holland has gezenlligheid, and Germany has gemütlichkeit.

In North America, we don’t really have a cultural equivalent to hygge. Instead, we are increasingly busy, and increasingly isolated. Maybe that’s why North Americans have been so taken with this concept, because it’s exactly what we need. So, how can you bring some of this happiness-generating hygge into life as a North American collegiette this fall?

Turn your bedroom into a cozy safe space

Sure, hygge is not all about the aesthetics, but some of it can be! Gather some comfy throw blankets and pillows on your bed. Enjoy the flicker of one of your warm, scented candles. Put up those fairy lights for soft lighting. Pick warm, calm colours. Hang up cherished photos of loved ones. Do everything that you can to make your space into an environment that makes you feel good. Just don’t spend a fortune! Us #brokeunistudents can enjoy hygge without getting caught up in the materialistic side of things too. Certain cafés can emulate hygge feelings; try heading over to the cozy atmosphere of Coffee Culture for an afternoon of studying.

Dress the part

Knit sweater? Check. Lounge pants? Check. Fluffy slippers? Check and check. The number one characteristic (and maybe only characteristic) of hygge style is comfort! You don’t need to dress down all the time, but give yourself permission every once in a while. You can even incorporate hygge pieces into your everyday style to keep yourself comfy on your way to class as temperatures drop this season. Comfy never goes out of style!

Indulge

Baked goods, warm soups, hot drinks, and comfort food all spell hygge. Indulge! But do so mindfully – don’t simply scarf things down. Take your time, enjoy each bite, be thankful for the food you have. Treats should be eaten in moderation, and when you do enjoy one, appreciate it. You can even base some hygge activities around food. Cook and bake with a loved one. Plan a potluck with your friends. Including other people into your hygge experience is key, which brings me to…

Company

While it is possible to exercise hygge alone, it is so much better in the presence of others. An entire part of hygge is valuing intimate moments with other people. Spend time with your significant other, with your roommates, with your friends, with your family; take pleasure in the company of the people in your life. Campus has a variety of clubs and associations you can join if you don’t currently have a solid social support system.

Activities

Make time for simple pleasures. Try group activities such as card games and board games or partake in a really good conversation. Simply sitting in the same room with someone as you read, journal, craft, or do some other individual activity can work too. Any situation can become hygge if you fill it with enough kinship and warmth. You can find hygge moments all through your day if you are receptive to them

The only thing to limit is screen time. Even though in certain contexts, things like movies and other screen activities can be very hygge, it should generally be avoided. Screens can be very isolating and can separate a room of people more than other activities. Sitting in a room where everyone is on their phone? Not very hygge. Make a conscious decision to put the phone away and to focus on the splendor of your surroundings more often.

Try getting yourself out into nature sometimes too! Go for a walk in the fall colours. Once winter hits, go for a skate at Harmony Square. Then head home, and enjoy coming back into the warmth with a hot drink.   

Hygge on the mind

Hygge is all about being grateful and being present in your life. And these are things that do not just need to occur during little pockets of time while you bake or hang out with friends; they can be useful tools for your everyday life. Mindfulness is another construct that hygge borrows many elements from. Mindfulness is bringing your attention to the events, sensations, and thoughts, that are coming to you in the present moment. This skill can be honed through meditation. Try sitting in silence and scanning your body for sensations (or follow guided meditations like these). The second part, gratitude, has been proven to enhance well-being. If you are religious, praying can be a way that you acknowledge your gratitude. Gratitude can also be practiced through journaling (find out more about the benefits of gratitude and how to start a journal here).

For me, hygge stirs up happy memories of childhood: Going for long walks in the woods with family in conversation and returning home to create a warm meal with each other. For me, hygge is trying to recreate that warmth in my current life. I challenge you to think of a time when you were content in life – were any elements of hygge present, and how can these elements of hygge enter into your life now?

Wishing you the coziest of winter seasons!