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What Is Hygge, the Cozy Danish Concept?

Perhaps the first question that needs to be answered is:  How do you pronounce Hygge?  According to the website Visit Denmark, Hygge is pronounced “hoo-gah” (seems simple enough).  You can also visit YouTuber Julien Miquel’s channel to hear the actual pronunciation.

Now, what is Hygge about?  According to the Little Book of Hygge, The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking, Hygge is about experiences that create feelings of home, being safe and letting your guard down.  It can include talking with others about anything while preparing a home-cooked meal or being by yourself while sipping a cup of tea.  Hygge is essentially about a feeling of calmness and peace.  It is also worth noting that Denmark’s practice of Hygge has led it to hold the number one position, multiple times, on the World Happiness Report

Everyone can subscribe to the benefits of feeling calm and being at peace.  But how do you practice or create these feelings?  

  • Lighting is one of the key aspects of practicing Hygge, as it sets the mood and atmosphere of any space.  Soft warm lights create a cozy and calming space, which makes one feel relaxed and comfortable.  Lighting also creates a sense of intimacy or connection with those around you or that book that has been sitting for months on your bedside table.  Candles are the preferred choice for Danish people, but dimmed lamps can also create feelings of Hygge.
  • Being with others or togetherness is another aspect of Hygge.  While Hygge can be practiced individually, interacting with others creates a sense of belonging and forms bonds, which helps enrich our lives and create truly memorable experiences.  Talking for hours with friends, without concern about offending someone, or making a meal together are ideal settings to create the feeling of togetherness.
  • Food and drinks play an important role in Hygge.  They both provide sustenance for the body, but they also nourish the soul and evoke feelings of comfort and contentment.    The authentic Danish way of practicing Hygge places a preference on cakes and pastries, of which there may be no disagreement.  However, savoury stews and soups are also effective at arousing the senses.  Asking each friend to bring an ingredient to prepare the meal elevates this experience.
  • Casual clothing is a must when it comes to practicing Hygge.  Formal attire has a place and time when it is most appropriate; however, being comfortable to put your feet up on the couch or let your guard down can be attributed to wearing something which makes you feel cozy and at peace.  Casual can also be stylish, so when choosing your outfit consider a t-shirt and sweater complemented with a blazer and running shoes of your choice.  In colder weather consider layering, scarves, thick socks and easy-to-put-on and take-off boots.
  • Where to Hygge?  Home is the answer according to 71 per cent of Danes (Little Book of Hygge, The Danish Way to Live Well). Often being safe is associated with being at home.  Your home also creates a natural feeling of calmness where you can be yourself and your friends can also feel comfortable.  Some requirements to make your home more Hyggelig (i.e., nice, friendly, and cozy) include candles, things made of wood like chairs, a table or ornaments, books, blankets, and cushions.  If it’s a solo Hygge experience, then you must have a comfy space where you can stare out the window or read your favourite book while under a blanket and sipping some tea.
  • The outdoors and activities are ways the Hygge experience can be created outside of the home. Hiking and cooking over a fire, spending a weekend at a cabin, and having a summer picnic are great ways to embrace nature and the outdoors while experiencing feelings of calm and peace.  Playing board games and watching movies outdoors are simpler ways to create those feelings.

If you have an interest in taking a break from the fast-paced and at times stressful way of life and would appreciate some time to relax, breathe slowly, listen to nature, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life, then Hygge is worth experiencing.  Find that nook in your place for when you need to Hygge individually.  Pick a night to invite friends over to cook a meal, talk or play board games.  Find that outfit in which you feel genuinely comfortable and look good in.  Don’t forget the candles. 

Nigel Shane | Contributing Writer

Spring 2024

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