Picture this: you are sitting on a comfortable armchair on a Saturday afternoon. It is dark outside and the rain is pouring. You can hear the whooshing of the wind and the occasional tapping of a branch against the window pane.
Meanwhile, you are sitting in front of the fireplace cuddled with a blanket and your favourite book. The only light in the room comes from the fireplace and the small candles on the table. The room is filled with the zesty aroma of the tea you just prepared. You are just are now getting to the juiciest part of your book. As you read, you occasionally reach out for a delicious chocolate-covered almond, enjoying the taste of it as the chocolate melts away in your mouth to reveal the raw almond. Then you alternate that with a citrusy sip of tea. This is your ritual. This is your bliss. This is hygge.
So, what does Hygge mean exactly?
Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word/lifestyle that means taking pleasure in an ordinary moment. Or rather, the particular mood or atmosphere that derives from or is conducive to taking pleasure in an ordinary moment. While the term cannot exactly be translated, the nearest English approximate would be “cosiness”. It essentially an art- the art of creating cosiness and intimacy in your environment. The Danish have perfected it to the extent that their cold and hard winters do not hinder their happiness- after all, the Danish are known for being some of the happiest people in the world.
If it’s working so well for the Danish, why are we only finding out about it now?
Two words: lifestyle trend. 2016 was the year of hygge. It was shortlisted as Oxford Engish Dictionary’s Word of the year, and it is even being “taught” as part of a Danish Language course at Morley College in London. It’s been described as the key to happiness and contentment. Everyone wants to be part of it. Everyone wants to learn how to “do” hygge. Call it a natural recourse after a devastating year or an attempt to emulate yet another practise Scandinavian’s excel at (the practice of living), either way, it appears that hygge is here to stay.
How does one get/do/practise Hygge?
Hygge is about deriving pleasure from ordinary moments. It’s about the small rituals, the daily systems that keep your world in balance. To “achieve it” you first have to take notice of the small pleasures that make your day. Your daily ritual of putting on layers in the winter: first the clothes, then your shoes, then your scarf, and lastly your gloves. The smell of freshly brewed coffee given off by the coffee shop you pass by on the way to work. That feeling when you enter your warm home after being out in the cold.
And then, once you become aware of these simple pleasures, it’s about enhancing them. Adding a warm woolly scarf that feels soft against your skin, saying hello to the lovely barista, making your home not only warm in temperature, but warm in feeling. It’s the simple touches: the soft light of candles, the flowery aroma of rose leaves in your tea, the cosy blanket you keep on the couch to wrap your feet when they are cold.
So is hygge the key to happiness? It might very well be.
But it’s is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It’s a key you have to mould. You have to shape it so that it fits with your own life, your own philosophy, your own idea of what makes a moment special. Embracing this new lifestyle trend means learning to embrace simple pleasures. It’s not about pursuing an idyllic state of happiness, but about nurturing a warm sense of contentment, of comfort, of bliss.